Posted Thursday 26 October 2023
The World Breaking Championship took place in Leuven, Belgium last month and Dr James Brouner, course leader for Kingston University's Sport and Exercise Science BSc (Hons) and Sport Science (Coaching) BSc (Hons) programmes, was invited to provide the Norwegian team with vital support to help performance and prevent injuries.
Dr Brouner talks about his weekend at the World Championship for break dancing, how he became involved with the Norwegian Breaking team and their hopes of qualifying for the Summer Olympics in Paris next year.
In December 2020 Breaking was officially added to the Olympic Sport Programme for the 33rd Summer Olympics taking place in Paris in 2024. The inclusion of Breaking saw a huge step forward for dance sport with the recognition of Breaking being both an artistic and competitive sport. With the elevation of Breaking to the Olympic movement, the athletes need to be supported to the same degree as other sportspeople to ensure that performance development is underpinned through scientific support.
In 2022, I was approached by the Norwegian Dance Federation by one of Kingston's Sport and Exercise Science Alumni, Nito Rihal, to offer Sport Science support to their Breakers ahead of the Olympic and Youth Olympic competitions, in 2024 and 2026 respectively. The opportunity to offer support to Olympic athletes was something that I have always wanted to do and jumped at the chance. I have researched Dance Science for a number of years with a main focus on ballet and contemporary dance so moving into Breaking was a really exciting research and applied opportunity.
I attended the World Breaking Championship in Leuven, Belgium at the end of September supporting four athletes, two BBoys and two BGirls; Daniel (@daniel.grindeland), Victor "Exaggerate" (@vicprag), Julie "Pretzel" (@julie_kringlebotn) and, Sathie "Valkyrie" (@sathie_kingwings). The competition ran over two days with qualifying rounds taking place on the Saturday and finals (top 16 BBoys and BGirls) taking place on the Sunday.
The pre-selection event for both BBoys and BGirls started in the early afternoon on Saturday with the BBoys drawing down to a top 64 and the BGirls down to a top 32 for the main competition. From the pre-selection both BBoy Daniel and BBoy Exaggerate made it through to the top 64. Both athletes performed really well and were looking forward to the following rounds. We discussed any issues with the performances and any discomforts they may have had to ensure they were in good shape for the following rounds. Again, both athletes went through the round of 64 well, upping the performance in terms of power moves, musicality and originality.
The final round of the day was the top 32. Daniel performed really well and made it through to the top 16 but unfortunately, the judging decisions did not go in Exaggerate's favour as he missed out in a close tie-break. In the evening, I worked with the athletes to discuss on recovery strategies and warm-up routines for the following morning. A clear plan was devised with Daniel and the support team.
On Sunday, it was a high-pressure day with Daniel preforming in the round robin top 16 event with the hope of progressing to the top 8. Following the first round Daniel felt a reoccurrence of an injury but despite this, his fully focused warm-up, massage and loading meant he performed well and only just missing out on the top 8. However, with such a strong performance both Daniel and Exaggerate are in line to be on the Olympic Qualifying System for Paris 2024, which is a fantastic achievement. We are now focusing on the two major qualification events in Shanghai and Budapest, in May and June respectively, to seal qualification for the games.
As a Sport and Exercise Scientist, supporting elite athletes on their Olympic journey is a fantastic experience, being able to put the theory we deliver on the course and develop in research into practice allows me to enhance my understanding of the application. This will in turn aid the application focus I can use in my teaching to offer a lived experience of delivery scientific support at the highest level of sport.
Speaking about Dr Brouner's involvement with the Norwegian Breaking team, Kingston alumni Nito Rihal said he had strengthened the team. "Getting him onboard has widened the support we can provide for our athletes. He provides valuable insight from a sport scientist perspective that benefits our athletes before, during and after competition and training."
BBoy Daniel said the scientific support offered by Dr Brouner has had a big impact on his performance. "Having him with me at competition gives me the confidence to perform without fearing injuries or pains. Listening to my body and knowing when to push through and when to slow down is key, and Dr Brouner helps me with this and advises me on steps to take for quick recovery."