'Wow, I'm an Olympian': American breakdancing world champ books ticket to Paris Olympics

Breaking, more commonly known as breakdancing, is heading to the Olympics next summer − and now American Victor Montalvo is, too.

Montalvo, known professionally as B-boy Victor, officially punched his ticket to the 2024 Paris Games by winning the 2023 world championships in Leuven, Belgium, over the weekend. He defeated Philip Kim, known professionally as B-boy Phil Wizard, in the final, ensuring that Team USA will be represented at what will be the Olympic debut of a sport that got its start on American soil nearly 50 years ago.

"Breaking started in the U.S., started in the Bronx. So it’s only right for a U.S. breaker to win the world championship, you know?" Victor said in a phone interview with USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday afternoon. "So I’m glad I’m a part of history."

Victor, 29, had long been favored to earn an Olympic spot. The Kissimmee, Florida, native has been competing in breaking for more than a decade and established himself as the top American man in the sport. He won the 2021 world championships and the 2022 edition of Red Bull BC One, a prominent breaking competition hosted every year by the energy drink brand.

All of that didn't make the Olympic qualification process any less stressful, however.

Because breaking is making its Olympic debut in Paris, and it has not been guaranteed a place at any future Games, this qualification cycle could be a one-time shot for athletes like Victor, who said he was surprised that some of his previous winning results did not count toward Olympic qualification points. Instead, he first secured his spot at the world championships by winning nationals, then won the world title to claim a quota spot in Paris.

"I’m like stress-free, finally," he said.

Victor Montalvo, aka B-boy Victor, competes during the World Breaking Championships.
Victor Montalvo, aka B-boy Victor, competes during the World Breaking Championships.

Breaking competitions consist of a series of one-on-one matchups, known as battles. The first competitor has roughly one minute to perform a series of twists, flips, kicks and freezes in front of judges, reacting and dancing to hip-hop music played by a DJ. Then the second competitor responds. Two more rounds of this follow, usually with shifts in the music, before the judges ultimately pick a winner.

The promise of the Olympics has led to some nuanced changes in competition, however. Victor explained that judging has become less subjective under a new scoring system that's been implemented in recent years. Competitions have featured more rounds and become more grueling. And the fields have become more diverse; According to the World DanceSport Federation, last weekend's world championships featured 178 athletes from 62 countries.

"There's a lot more countries coming in," Victor said. "China is blowing up right now. There’s kids coming out of China that are doing amazing moves that I would’ve never imagined. Asia as a whole, they’re really killing it. Europe. South America.

"I feel like (the) U.S. is kind of dying out, to be honest. There’s not much inspiration in the U.S. Breaking is kind of fading away here, which is sad."

Victor was introduced to the sport by his father, who was also a b-boy, as a child and made his competitive debut at 14. He said he's tried to breathe life back into the American breaking scene by mixing old-school elements with new-school flair.

"I feel like I keep the traditional style of breaking alive, but I also add that new-school style into my breaking," he said. "So I have the essence of breaking − the originality, the style. I have my own style, my own character, my own originality. I can do the hard moves, but then I also have the small details."

With his Olympic spot secured, Victor plans to take a step back from one-on-one competition while continuing to compete in team events, known as crew battles. As the Games grow nearer, he said he'll take a closer look at his moves and try to "reinvent myself" in hopes of winning a gold medal.

In the meantime, Victor said he is still digesting the fact that he will soon be an Olympic athlete. Sometimes, it feels like that fact has sunk in. Other times, he kind of forgets that his life will soon chnage.

"It’s like here and there," he said. "I’m just in my home, hanging out and I think to myself  like, 'Wow, I’m an Olympian. I did it. This was my main goal, and I did it.' So it’s an awesome feeling."

Contact Tom Schad at tschad@usatoday.com or on social media @Tom_Schad.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Breakdancing world champ Victor Montalvo going to 2024 Summer Olympics