Canadian breaking star Philip (B-Boy Phil Wizard) Kim is in Paris this week for the Red Bull BC One World Final. Before that he’s not so sure.
"It's been the busiest year of travel for me,” he said. “It has been a lot but it’s been good.”
Breaking, better known as breakdancing, takes the 26-year-old from Vancouver around the world. And Kim is in demand.
He was in Leuven, Belgium, last month to defend his title at the World DanceSport Federation (WDSF) World Breaking Championship, finishing runner-up to American B-Boy Victor who booked his ticket to the Paris Olympics with the win.
After Paris, he heads to Santiago, Chile, for the Pan American Games where an Olympic berth awaits the winner. It will be his second visit to Chile this year after winning the WDSF Pan American Championships there in May.
And before Paris?
“It’s kind of all jumbled up to be honest,” Kim said. “I don’t know where I was before Belgium. What month are we? October?”
Upon reflection, he recalls being in France in August, as well as the Netherlands and Slovakia. There was also a business trip to Toronto earlier this month.
“Constantly on the road,” he said.
So does that make Kim a world-class packer?
“You would think so,” he lamented. “But actually I always forget something every time I travel.”
Kim always comes complete with a bucketload of moves. The breakdancing maestro is a muscular spinning top, ready to cheerfully take on all-comers.
The Red Bull BC One World Final, whose main event is scheduled for Saturday, is a favourite stop.
Kim is a Red Bull-sponsored athlete. Plus this year‘s event is taking place at Roland Garros, home of the French Open tennis tournament. And with breaking making its Olympic debut next year in Paris — at the iconic Place de la Concorde, which will also host Olympic BMX freestyle, skateboarding and 3xs basketball — the event has more eyes on it.
While some like defending champion B-Boy Victor have opted to skip this year’s event due to a busy schedule with Olympic qualifying coming into play, Kim says “a lot of heavy hitters” will still be competing.
Kim points to such top contenders as South Korea’s Hong 10, American Jeffro and France’s Dany Dann as well as “young guns” like Poland’s Wigor and Japan’s Issin.
“The level is very high. It’s a very, very cool lineup this year,” said Kim, who grew up watching the event and counts it as “the most prestigious one-on-one event in the world.”
The five-foot-seven 160-pounder, with guns that a man twice his size would envy, has his eye set on the Olympics and Paris.
It’s a city that figures prominently for him. He has been there four times in the last year.
“And it’s always fun for me to go” he said. “Especially this week. BC One is always a gathering of the entire community. They always invite every major player in the game and a lot of people just to come spectate, so it’s always a great time.”
Kim was gracious in defeat at the world championships in Belgium, lifting Victor in the air when the result was announced.
It was a competition that started badly for him, Kim said.
“Prior to the top eight (round), I felt horrible. I just was not in it mentally,” he said. “I’m happy that from the top eight onwards, I kind of flipped the switch and was able to come back. I think I put on a good showing.
“I had a very difficult lineup with Menno (in the) top eight, Shigekix top four and then Victor in the finals. All people that I kind of looked up to growing up and people that I compete against regularly … So if was definitely tough competition. But Victor won fair and square. The better man won that day. But it was still a good battle and I feel I put on a good showing. It wasn't a landslide or anything (the final score was 2-1). And I'm happy for Vic."
Kim notes that the same three competitors stood on the podium as last year, albeit in a different order. It was Victor, Kim and Shigekix this year. Last year it was Kim, Shigekix and Victor.
Breaking sees competitors go one on one, riffing off the DJ's music in short bursts of about 30 seconds as their rival looks on. Repeating a competitor's signature move is frowned upon although there is a bushel of general moves that everyone uses.
But there can be an healthy element of swagger on offer from the sideline, with the athlete not in action using body language for a silent review of what he's seeing.
Kim said it was hard to forget what was on the line at the worlds.
"You could feel a lot more pressure that day, for sure." he said. "But as always I try to enjoy it and just have fun. But I definitely felt the pressure as well, especially in the finals because it's just three rounds and it can decide whether you go to the Olympics or not."
Canada's breaking team at the Pan Am Games also includes Toronto's Onton (B-Boy Onton) See and Tiffany (B-Girl Tiff) Leung and Emma (B-Girl Emma) Misak of Surrey, B.C.
While it's a first go-round for breaking at both the Olympics and Pan Ams, Misak won a silver medal at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires. For the time being it's a one-off at the Olympics with the sport not on the agenda for the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles.
Kim sees the weekend Red Bull event as excellent preparation for the Nov. 3-4 Pan Am competition which serves as the Americas qualifier for the Olympics.
He can also book his ticket to Paris via the Olympic Qualifying Series, set for March to June. Kim is already pre-qualified for the series, which will settle the final seven spots in each of the 16-athlete men's and women's Olympic fields.
Kim cheerfully says his schedule is not about to get any lighter.
"I think I've learned in the last few years that I'm a workaholic and it's easy to be a workaholic when you love what you do and also you get to do cool things," he said.
"It's been a very good year but very, very long," he added. "I am quite exhausted to be honest. But it's also just a learning process, especially because it's the first time ever for us to go to the Olympics, to do the Olympic qualification, as well as still do things like (Red Bull) BC One, shooting content, working with different brands, whatever the case may be.
"All good things. But definitely exhausting."
He also is a champion sleeper on planes, saving up his frequent flyer points for an upgrade when travelling to important competitions.
"It does spoil you. Once you go business class, it's hard to go back to economy to be completely honest," he said with a giggle.
"I can sleep pretty much anywhere but obviously if you're able to lie down, it's going to be way more comfortable," he added. "But I'm pretty good. It's actually become so good that it is detrimental. I can't do anything else on a plane. Like if I try to read or watch a movie, I start falling asleep, because my body is so conditioned to fall asleep on a plane. I pretty much just eat or sleep on planes."
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 19, 2023
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press