Fencing has changed the lives of minority youth, and unlike other sports, it has set them up for success later in life.
“The sport really does have the potential to change your life,” said two-time Olympian, Daryl Homer. “It has for so many of us.”
Homer was born in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, but grew up in the Bronx. He attended Friends Seminary from elementary school through his junior year of high school, and he finished at a Catholic school in New Rochelle.
After reading about fencing in the dictionary, Homer urged his mother to find a place for him to try. “After much urging on my part, my mother looked in the Yellow Pages to find local clubs,” said Homer. “I started fencing at the Peter Westbrook Foundation when I was 11 years old.”
At the foundation, Homer met six-time Olympian and 1984 Olympic bronze medalist Peter Westbrook, who established the Foundation. “I was told after a couple of months of fencing that I was talented, and was supported by the Peter Westbrook Foundation, and my coach at the time Yury Gelman, so I pursued the sport,” said Homer. “This gave me a unique sense of confidence as I struggled through competitions in my formative years.”
Homer’s bronze medal finish at the 2007 Cadet World Championships in Belek, Turkey marked the moment where he realized he had a true talent. “I didn’t truly believe I could be the best in the world until then,” he said.
After medaling at Junior World Championships twice more, Homer landed a spot on the 2012 Olympic Fencing Team and finished sixth at the Olympic Games in London that year. In 2015, he made history, becoming the first U.S man to win a medal at the Senior World Championships. In 2016, he won the silver medal at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. He said it is definitely his most memorable accomplishment.
“I’d dreamed of that moment for so long,” he said. “To be on the podium actualizing that Olympic dream was perhaps my most humbling moment.”
He was the first U.S man to win an individual saber title since Peter Westbrook in 1984, and is just the fourth U.S man to ever win an individual medal at the Olympic Games. His greatest accomplishment off the fencing strip, however, is returning to the Peter Westbrook Foundation. “I left a familiar situation that worked for me as an athlete to pursue spiritual and emotional growth as a man,” Homer explained. “I battled fears of whether I’d be able to still compete successfully going into a completely new system, and I’m still here, healthy and more motivated than ever.”
After accomplishing such great feats, Homer said he felt the need to “pay it forward.” Because fencing has given him so much, he sought to share his talents as far as they could go. “Working in Senegal and Zambia recently gave me two distinct opportunities to share my talent with underprivileged youth, but also to put my life and experience in perspective,” Homer explained. “I’ve found that to be most important as I continue to strive for excellence.”
He finds joy in creating and collaborating with artists and friends in different creative fields. He also likes to experience different cultures, and travel. “In Senegal, I partnered with a nonprofit organization called OSIWA, that uses fencing as a restorative justice tool for orphaned and imprisoned young men,” he said. “Through sport, I was able to share and connect with the young men, and learn more about how sports can be utilized to foster a difference in at risk youth.”
In Zambia, Homer found that the children had more exposure to fencing than he had expected. “I was able to experience more personal moments with the children,” he said. “I met their parents, visited their homes, witnessed their graduation ceremony, while also sharing with them the ‘power of sport.’ The children were amazing soccer players, with many of them having far more exposure to fencing than I’d thought possible.”
For Homer, maintaining a quiet mind while competing is imperative. “That’s the most important to me,” he said. “Quiet mind and trusting my instinct.”
He has been featured in many local publications and in national publications covering fashion and sports. “Fencing truly gives you a global perspective,” he said. “It puts you in a favorable position to achieve not only on the fencing strip, but in life as well.”
For more information, photos and insight on Homer’s journey, visit his Instagram and Twitter @daryldhomer, and his website http://www.darylhomer.co.