Sunni Brummit’s journey is no less of a whirlwind than the breakdancing moves he hopes will take him to the Paris Olympics in 2024.
It begins in Penang, Malaysia, where his mother went on a gap year and ended up staying for eight years. It included a childhood of foster children passing through his family home who had usually come straight out of juvenile detention.
And it involved spending a year sleeping in a London office with only a concrete floor for his bed, and showering at friends’ homes when he could.
Amid it all, he has proved a trailblazer in the UK for the newest of Olympic sports. He is part-contortionist, a head-spinning ball of energy with an often gravity-defying box of tricks learned from a decade and a half in the business.
This weekend, the journey of the North Acton resident to the Olympics kicks off in earnest with the European Breaking Championships in Manchester.
He brushes off his slightly unusual path, pointing out it’s the only one he’s ever known so doesn’t necessarily see it as anything special, not even his former concreted bedroom.
“People think that was a super hardship,” he says, “but it wasn’t that for me. It gets misconstrued as it was a choice I made. If I could have had a house, I would have had a flipping house. Or I could have sacrificed training and put that on the back burner. It wasn’t that rough to be sleeping on the floor.”
The office was neighbouring to the Newham dance studio where he and his friends would hang out and fine-tune all their moves for their respective competitions. Brummit, known in competitions as Sunni, was successfully on the breaking circuit from 15. Some competitions paid, some didn’t. Sometimes he was cash rich and able to afford rent, other times he wasn’t.
He readily admits that, as a teenager, he would spend any competition prize money pretty much as soon as he won it. The subsequent hardships meant that when he was signed by Red Bull to its AllStars team five years ago, he was more sensible with the trappings of that contract.
Now, he earns a good living in a sport on the rise, which looks set to explode much like skateboarding and climbing at the Tokyo Olympics when it makes its way to a bigger stage at the subsequent Games in Paris.
The only sports he remembers watching from the Olympics as a child were diving and rhythmic gymnastics with his mother, who competed on trampoline in her younger years.
Mother and son are incredibly tight – he calls himself “a momma’s boy” and affectionately refers to his mother as “a nutter”, a fashion designer who spends half her year in the UK and the other half in Malaysia, where his own journey began.
“She went to Malaysia on a gap year and came back seven or eight years later with a son,” he says. His father is not a part of their lives – he simply refers to his family history as “quite intense” before moving on. And the two moved around a variety of places in the UK from Devon to Cheltenham to Gloucester and Bristol, where he did his secondary schooling and mum Jane became a foster carer.
“Mum did respite care so she took kids into the house that were in transition or just out of juve,” he recalls. “Mum was just really good with the ones that needed extra attention and love. Some kids came for a week or two, some stayed for a year. There were a lot of kids that were dealing with heavy trauma and it was quite intense. My mum’s an angel.”
As a child, he was constantly active, a regular climber and footballer before being introduced to breakdancing, for which he quickly realised he had an aptitude. At 17, he left home and ever since then has been living off dance.
Breaking’s Olympic introduction has led to some split opinions, some traditionalists arguing the sport is losing its spirit and soul. Brummit is not among those.
“It’s a massive deal,” he says. “It’s like validation to the sport and us athletes.
“I’ve won a s**t load of events but there’s no point going on about the gravity of events as people on the outside don’t know about them. You make it to the Olympics once, for people outside that outweights everything.”
There will be just 16 spots available for the B-boys in Paris. He is confident he will take one of them.