When Tiffany Leung isn't working or throwing down footwork or acrobatic moves in the living room of her spacious apartment, she enjoys vintage shopping, art, fashion and — snacking.
To her 2,300 Instagram followers and those closest to the Canadian breaker, or breakdancer, she's also known as deepfriedtiff.
"I'm known to be gluttonous, especially snacks," the Toronto resident told CBC Sports.
Leung is easily stressed when balancing breaking with the demands of her job in artificial intelligence, so she often de-stresses with a sugar craving.
"There are moments when I want short-term gratification," said Leung, who has worked five years for Deloitte, a management consultant company in Toronto. "Sometimes I'm starving at practice and need a sugar boost. I'm never craving anything healthy or a meal, just snacks and sugars.
"It's the hardest thing to fix for the Olympics."
Leung has yet to secure a spot for the 2024 Summer Games in Paris, where breaking will make its debut with 16 women and 16 men competing. But she is on track for one of the maximum two spots available to Canadian women as the No. 1-ranked B-girl, or Break girl, in the country.
Geoff Reyes, the president of Breaking Canada, which was established in 2021, believes the 27-year-old is "really close" to realizing her Olympic dream.
"She's on the cusp of making the top 16," he noted. "She's been on the world stage before. She was fifth at the World Games last [July] so that was huge. If that's an indicator of what can happen at the Olympics, then she definitely belongs there."
In December 2020, Leung was at a crossroads in her athletic career when breaking was officially added to the Olympics. She considered focusing entirely on her work, complete with financial stability and security.
Fear of failure
Leung had similar thoughts shortly after starting at Deloitte when she felt stretched working long hours. The quality of her breaking practices suffered, and she often arrived "mentally drained and unable to move."
While recognizing she was able to represent Canada in the Olympics, it isn't a sure thing, and she was scared by the fear of failure.
"If I wanted to make it happen," recalled the former competitive gymnast, "I would have to seriously restructure my life, be disciplined, prioritize breaking and try to find a way to manage Deloitte."
Then, she stumbled upon the following quote: "Don't ask yourself what you would do if you knew you wouldn't fail. Ask yourself, would it be worth doing, even if you did fail." She soon chose breaking and understood the need to work through the discomforts, insecurities and fears after suffering a concussion while breaking that sidelined her for most of a two-year period from July 2019 to August 2021.
"I was almost ready to let go [from breaking]. I didn't want to be done, in my heart," remembered Leung, who started breaking in 2013 during her first year at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont. "I was more scared and ignoring what I wanted to do, deep down."
Now, it's not just about dancing. It's about my stamina, the quality of my movement, being able to do rounds [in competition]. — Tiffany Leung on improving her eating habits for an Olympic push
She is making a concerted effort to eat healthier, purchasing trail mix as a snack. Leung has also been exploring how to cook for herself and learn what makes her body feel best when breaking. Recently, she discovered sandwiches fuelled her energy.
"I'm really focused on what food will fuel my practices," said Leung, a 2022 Canadian champion. "[Before the Olympic announcement] I ate terribly and after practice I would eat terribly. I didn't worry about it.
"Now, it's not just about dancing. It's about my stamina, the quality of my movement, being able to do rounds [in competition] and get the appropriate input and output at practice.
"I love breaking," continued Leung, "but practising to go to the Olympics is a completely different beast than [doing it recreationally]. I can't wait to be able to transition to that because I think it would make my breaking better when I don't have that intense pressure to accelerate my improvement.
She added, "Trying to be [more] disciplined for the Olympics has been a bit harder because I do like, outside of work, to not be so strict and disciplined with every hour I have."
Busy competition schedule
With food one of her largest expenses and the Olympics costly, especially for unsponsored athletes like Leung, she wishes she saved more money during her early years at Deloitte that would have allowed her to take a year off to focus on Olympic training.
Leung opened her 2023 schedule this weekend in Fukuoka Japan, the first of five Breaking for Gold World Series events this year at which breakers can amass Olympic qualifying points. She lost to Sanja Jilwan Rasul (B-girl Jilou) in qualifying and didn't advance to the round robin.
With a top-four finish at the May 27-28 Pan Am Championship in Chile, Leung would clinch a berth for the Pan Am Games in November, an Olympic qualifier also in Chile.
Leung, who formed the Toronto-based all-female Kuru Crew in 2016, is also expected to compete at a pair of events in the city in late April and June 3-4 in Montreal. The winners in each category at the Sept. 22-24 world championships in Belgium and Pan Ams qualify directly for the Olympics.
Reyes has been impressed with Leung's ability to execute.
"She gains more confidence with each event. That alone is [valuable] training," he said. "We want to get her to a place where she's trained enough, confident and in a good place in her progression."
Leung, who describes her breaking style as dynamic and playful, is focused on improving her stamina along with the quality of her movements, freezes (position held without movement at the end of a round) and power moves (those relying on speed, momentum and acrobatic elements).
"When I did two rounds against three people at the World Games [last year], even though I got top seed, my legs were giving out," she said.
"I want to share my style because I know no one else dances the way I do. In competition, my moves are original and creative. I have the physicality, form and quality of movement to get an edge [on the competition].
"I'm not going to break to what moves are trendy," Leung went on. "My approach is to be free in my movement and style, be true and authentic in my movement. That's how I want to win."