How One Inspiring Masters Athlete Breaks Records to Battle his Parkinson’s

By Jennifer Yu, Guinness World Records

Jimmy Choi makes even some of the most difficult fitness moves look easy – but it’s anything but for the dedicated record holder. Battling Parkinson’s disease since the age of 27, the now 46-year-old Chicago resident has to work to overcome his illness every single day.

This is a brain disorder that can lead to uncontrollable shaking, muscle stiffness and imbalance; living with Parkinson’s makes everyday activities such as walking quite strenuous.

Nevertheless, Jimmy managed to take control of his life post-diagnosis thanks to discipline and a determined mindset – amazing himself and others as he went on to become a Guinness World Records title holder as well as star on American Ninja Warrior.

As we share the details of Jimmy’s journey, we take a look at the ups and downs that led him to inspiring so many.

His Early Life 

Born from Taipei, Taiwan, 10-year-old Jimmy Choi and his family moved to Chicago, Illinois, USA, in 1985, knowing very little English and looking for better opportunities.

As a result of the move, his father reinforced to the family the idea that in order to succeed in this new country, they would need to learn how to speak and act like Americans.

While other children were playing outside, Jimmy and his brother worked diligently for hours at a time during their summer break to practice their English so they could speak proficiently, with little to no accent in their new homeland.

It was challenging for a young child who came from another world with different customs, habits, and dialects.

Upon reflection, Jimmy now attributes this massive childhood adjustment and mindset to help prepare him for adversities later in life.

As he grew up, Jimmy dreamed about becoming a lawyer and later went on to discover an interest in technology.

However, his diagnosis with Parkinson’s at the age of 27 changed the direction of his life. Feeling frustrated and upset about his condition, Jimmy avoided the precautionary measures that should be taken to help those with Parkinson’s. As a result, the disease slowly consumed his ability to move, deterring his ability to do many things, especially playing one of his favorite sports, scratch golf.

“Life gave me Parkinson’s and all of a sudden those skills diminished faster than I learned them.”

But despite the harsh challenges Parkinson’s had thrown at him, Jimmy still held big dreams of being a top performer in sports.

He used fitness as a tool to battle his condition, which has led him to accomplish his goals in a roundabout but rewarding way.

Today, Jimmy is considered an elite athlete and representative for raising nationwide awareness for Parkinson’s disease. He has competed on NBC Sport’s American Ninja Warrior 5 times, has completed intense endurance events such as triathlons since 2012 and who has now achieved the record for the most chest to ground burpees in one minute.

Finding a Treatment to Parkinson’s 

Just 10 years ago, Jimmy found a holistic treatment for Parkinson’s: fitness.

It wasn’t until this marathon runner started losing his balance and found himself falling many times as an adult that he asked himself this serious question, “What can I do to protect myself if I do take a fall?”

Jimmy’s answer was relatively logical and played much into his burpee record attempt.

Eventually, Jimmy became so good at doing burpees that he thought he might have a shot at breaking a record.

He first started with doing 5 burpees a day, and as days progressed, he added more and more reps to his daily routine.

Two years of sticking to this daily regimen, Jimmy attempted the official title and succeeded the record title for the most chest to ground burpees in one minute with 30 burpees on 08 August 2020.

Jimmy shares that conquering this record was a joyous achievement for his younger and present self who struggled immensely with his ailment. He hopes that this achievement can demonstrate to others who are struggling with a brain disorder, or a similar illness, “can still thrive and accomplish things that most people thought only 100% healthy people can do.”

Once others saw that Jimmy achieved this record, it inspired them to do more during the pandemic as well. He shares that his triumph has “helped me teach others how they can gain so much from life despite what our current situations take away from us”.

Now, Jimmy is planning to undertake two other records, but this time he wants to do something more than average burpees.

His focus will include plyometric burpees, adding another challenge to his endeavours.

Jimmy’s Advice to Other Record-Holders 

“My advice is when you are looking to break a record, it helps if you can get the community behind you no matter what that may be. For me, it was not just the Parkinson’s community but the fitness community as well. Reach out, let others know why the title is important to you and what it can mean for the community.

Today, Jimmy has raised more than $500,000 to fund for research and awareness for Parkinson’s disease. He is also an active motivational speaker, an advocate who promotes Parkinson’s research and a patient council board member of the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

Aside from Jimmy’s community efforts, he is a retired technology executive who resides in Texas, and a loving husband and caring father to two talented kids.

With his record, Jimmy’s wishes to show individuals who are struggling with obstacles that you can live a healthy and fulfilled life, even if that means adapting it in your own way.

He aspires to keep everyone’s motivation alive by reinforcing the idea that pre-existing conditions should never deter someone from accomplishing life ambitions. With his story as an example, no matter what the case, there is always a way to make it happen.