Emma Houston is as far from the traditional Olympic athlete as one can imagine.

While most sportspeople with Olympic aspirations have spent years, decades even, dreaming about gracing the Olympic stage before it becomes a reality, Houston’s thoughts, until very recently anyway, were instead consumed with treading the boards in one of the most renowned theatre districts in the world.

When, just a few years ago, Houston was centre stage in London’s West End, becoming an Olympian had never even entered the Scot’s consciousness.

But with breaking the Olympic Games’ newest sport, the prospect of being a part of the world’s greatest sporting event became something Houston and countless other dancers suddenly had in their sights.

It was, however, at the most unlikely of times, that Houston, who identifies as non-binary and goes by the pronouns they/them, developed ambitions of becoming an Olympian.

Having caught Covid early in the pandemic as a consequence of those West End performances, the 31-year-old then developed long Covid, leaving them unable to do even a single press-up. Counter-intuitively, however, it was at this very moment that Houston decided to go for the Olympic Games. Three years on, the London-based Scot is within touching distance of Paris 2024.

“I was on the West End before the pandemic but then I got really, really bad long Covid,” they said. “Imagine going from your pinnacle fitness, doing two-hour shows every night like it’s nothing, to then suddenly being floored.

“There was a point I thought I’d never dance again and I had to grieve that. But in December 2020, I made a pact with myself that I was going to go for the Olympics, which was strange because at that point I couldn’t do anything physical, not even a press-up. But, very slowly, I built it back up and to be at this point now is crazy.”

Houston began their sporting life as a footballer. A Falkirk Ladies player, it was a twist of fate that ended up sending them in this current direction. And almost immediately, Houston realised they’d found not only their calling, but the discipline that suited them far more than the structured, narrow world that football can be.

“I watched a dance film called You Got Served because a friend said he thought I’d really like it; little did he know he would change my life forever,” they said. “Instantly, I loved it and wanted to get involved.

“It wasn’t that my heart left football but rather I felt like I could express more of myself through dance. Traditional sport can sometimes feel one-dimensional and I had a lot of creative expression I was yearning to explore.

“So I transitioned over, studied dance and it all grew from there.”

Houston’s talent in dance was quickly apparent. And while those early days did not include dreams of the Olympic Games, they’ve recently realised the opportunity the Olympics presents for dancers.

However, with breaking’s traditions and background so disparate from those of the Olympics, Houston admits that they, and many of their fellow breakers, have somewhat conflicting feelings about the sport’s impending inclusion in Paris next summer.

The Olympic format will see dancers split into male and female categories and battle for medals in one-to-one dance-offs, with two winners ultimately crowned the sport’s first Olympic champions.

Houston remains unconvinced that becoming an Olympic event will be solely positive for their sport. But they remain entirely open-minded about what Olympic inclusion will do for breaking.

“Breaking is not a mainstream thing and that’s where there’s a stark contrast to the Olympics which is an institution that’s very elitist and that notoriously discounts people who are in the margins. So where is hip hop’s place in that space?” they ask.

“It’s a nuanced one – I don’t think its inclusion is entirely good or entirely bad. I can see a lot of positives of being in the Olympics but there’s a lot of things where it remains to be seen what comes of it.

“Will it bring opportunities or is it going to be a similar individualist, capitalist success vibe whereby very few profit and the rest of the culture is left exactly as it was, or even worse off? But we, the dancers, are part of this movement so with as much power as we have, we can ensure that it goes in the right direction. It’s about changing it by being inside it rather than looking on from the sidelines.”