Winning Look

Sunny Choi’s Summer Olympics Prep Includes Hot Yoga & Microbreaks

And press-on nails that don’t come off when she’s breaking.

by Marilyn La Jeunesse

“I’m actually tearing up a little bit remembering that moment,” Sunny Choi says of winning the first-ever gold medal in breaking at the 2023 Pan American Games, a historic achievement that also made her the first American female breaker to qualify for the upcoming Paris Olympics.

Now, the top-10 breaker is only a few weeks away from fulfilling a lifelong dream — even if it’s in an entirely different sport than her younger self imagined. Enthralled by the gymnasts at the 1992 Olympics, Choi says she became hooked and competed until a series of knee injuries cut her ambitions short. But instead of giving up, she discovered breaking in college. “When life threw me a second chance, I took it,” Choi says.

Nearly two decades later, Choi says she’s excited to honor breaking’s roots on an international stage, while drawing in new fans. With origins in Black and Latino communities in the Bronx, breaking is a culture and a high-energy sport in which dancers often battle one another in the cypher — a circle formed by audience members — and perform a series of fundamental steps in their own styles. “We wouldn’t be here without the culture,” Choi says. “One of the most beautiful things about our community is the fact that it’s really diverse because breaking is pretty accessible — all you need is some music and a floor, unlike other sports where you need a track, a pool, or equipment.”

Below, the 35-year-old breaker takes a brief break from her intensive training to talk about the Olympics, her impressive multiple-step skin care routine, and her new partnership with Blume.

Can you walk me through your Olympics training?

I have a strength and conditioning coach that helps me with my cross-training outside of breaking. Most days of the week I have something I’m working through with her. I also do breaking practices. Those usually happen in the evening, pretty late at night, and they’re all over the place, like community centers, dance studios, at my house. That happens four or five times a week. I do hot vinyasa yoga, and I see a therapist for my mental health. I think a really big one also is fueling [my body], so taking care of my diet and nutrition. And then there’s active recovery, which can be movement or sitting in compression boots. It looks different depending on my needs for the day.

Speaking of diet and nutrition, how did your partnership with Blume come about?

Blume is organic, naturally sweetened, and all about health. It’s super clean. It’s exactly the type of product I would go and buy for myself and be super excited about. I have this little makeup pouch filled with feminine products, my lip stain, and the SuperBelly packets. They come in handy when you’re training and you need to grab something, or you’re competing and you realize you’re losing a lot of sweat. I stick those little hydration packets everywhere.

How do you take care of your mental health before something as major as the Olympics?

When my boyfriend and I walk our dog, we don’t take our phones and just talk about life. Those walks are really good because it forces us to be away from our screens for a little bit and actually tune into each other. I take microbreaks during the day, 10 seconds between tasks. The purpose is to do a quick check on where my internal battery is at. Do I need a refuel or can I keep going?

I also do hot vinyasa, because when you’re sweating your existence out in that room, you can’t think about anything else. That hour of forced calm and quiet is really good for my brain. I walk out of those sessions every time, and I’m like, “Anything could happen right now, and I’ll be fine.”

Breaking can be very rough on your hands. How do you protect them?

My favorite lotion is the Malin + Goetz Vitamin B5. I use it all over. I always do my nails, so that’s a big one for me.

Do you have special nails planned for the Olympics?

Kiss has these new Salon X-tend nails and a gel lamp so they’ll stay on. I usually always do my own nails — I usually do press-ons and they’ll pop off as I’m dancing, but those really stay. I have a set planned, and then I was going to put red and blue jewels on them so I’m a little bit patriotic.

Do you have a competition makeup look?

I do for media, but while I’m competing, I keep a fresh face because we’re sweating so much. The one thing I might do is a little bit of [Dear Darling Water Tint by ETUDE] lip stain that’ll stay on. They have a trio, and my favorite shade is the one that’s a little bit more orange.

What’s your post-competition skin care routine?

If it’s super humid or I’m in a really dusty space, I’ll use Beauty by Earth foaming cleanser. I was working at Estée Lauder for a long time, so I have quite a lot of pretty good products. I use the Origins Dr. Andrew Weil mushroom treatment lotion, and then the serum. And then I use Re-Nutriv Ultimate Regenerating Youth Moisturizing Creme; it’s an amazing eye cream. My guilty pleasure is La Mer — I have really dry skin and have tried so many different products, and La Mer just happens to be one of the ones that moisturizes me the best.

Breaking is different from other sports because you freestyle as you compete. What’s that like?

For me, when I’m battling, I get into this almost meditative state where everything is very calm and quiet, even though there’s music playing. I hear that my opponent’s there, but they’re in my periphery. It’s almost like someone put up walls around me, and nothing exists but me in this quiet booth and what I’m about to do. It’s actually a really kind of beautiful space.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.