Breakdancing wows Asian Games ahead of Olympic bow

Artistic: Mongolia’s Khandjav Myagmarjav competes during the women’s breakdancing event in the Asian Games on Friday. — AP

WHEN South Korean Kim Hong-yul was a teenager in the late 1990s, hip-hop ruled the airwaves and breakdancing was “the coolest thing in the world”, he says.

Now the acrobatic dance style, which originated on the streets of 1970s New York, is at the Asian Games for the first time and will also debut next year at the Olympics.

It is all part of moves to attract a younger audience.

But for some of the older “B-boys” and “B-girls”, these may be their last -- as well as their first -- chances of a medal and broader recognition, with middle age approaching.

In Hangzhou on Friday dancers in baggy T-shirts, tracksuits and baseball caps flipped, jigged and spun on their heads to a throbbing beat as “breaking”, as it is officially called, took centre stage.

A DJ spun tracks and an MC hyped the contestants up. Spectators, who were overwhelmingly young, waved glow sticks and whooped.

The 38-year-old Hong-yul, a full-time B-boy and two-time Red Bull BC world champion, made it through to the knockout rounds after multiple dance “battles” against opponents.

He picked up breakdancing as a 13-year-old after seeing his friends show off their moves and said he was thrilled to see what he calls their “culture” get recognition from top sporting events.

“It feels really great. I’ve been literally staying with my culture and this culture keeps growing up, and I’ve been keeping watching it, so I’m happy for it,” Hong-yul said.

He is among a handful of older dancers at a competition dominated by contestants in their teens and 20s. He can feel the clock ticking.

“When I was young it was almost whole day of practice (every day), but now I’m getting old, two or three hours a day is enough,” he said.

Breaking’s Asian Games debut is even more special for Hong-yul and his rivals because spots for next year’s Paris Olympics are up for grabs along with medals.

Hong-yul, who dances under the stage name “Hong 10”, said he hoped the discipline’s inclusion in the Asian Games would result in “many kids trying this and understanding this and evolving this”.

“Maybe five years later, ten years later, I wanna see something I never expected.” — AFP

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