Former St. John’s fencer scores silver in Rio

Former St. John’s fencer scores silver in Rio
AP / Andrew Medichini
By Laura Amato

An Olympic medal is coming back to St. John’s and this one is historic.

Former Red Storm standout and Bronx native Daryl Homer clinched silver in the individual men’s sabre in Rio Aug. 10, becoming just the fourth United States fencer to medal in the event and the first since 1984.

It is also the first time a St. John’s fencer has medaled since Keeth Smart took silver in the team saber competition at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.

Team USA, which also won bronze in the team competition, is still searching for another gold in the spot—a century-long quest—but Homer’s accomplishment is not to be diminished.

Homer’s victory in the semifinal was an edge-of-your seat drama as he clinched a championship berth with a 15-14 victory over Iran’s Mojtaba Abedini.

Homer—who competed for
the Red Storm from 2008-2012 and entered the Olympic games ranked 10th in the world—battled back from a 6-3 deficit to take a two-point lead at the break.

He jumped out to a 12-9 lead, but Mojtaba won the next three touches, tying the score. But Homer didn’t back away from the pressure. He attacked, and emerged the victor.

In the championshiop match, Homer faced off against Hungary’s Aron Szilagyi, who won the gold medal in men’s individual saber at the 2012 London Olympics. Once again, he found himself down early.

Homer cut into Szilagyi’s lead down the stretch, clawing back to make it 14-8, but that was as close as he would get.

Despite the final loss, it’s difficult for Team USA to be too disappointed with Homer’s silver. The Rio games mark the first time the United States secured multiple medals in individual fencing (Alex Massialas took a silver medal in foil) since the 1904 St. Louis Games.

Homer has been front and center throughout the leadup to Rio, appearing in several TV spots as well as snagging modeling gigs with Vogue and Us Weekly. His less-than-usual introduction to fencing has captured the Olympics-watching world by storm.

Born in the U.S. Virgin Islands, he moved to the Bronx with his mother at 5, and first discovered fencing when he saw a picture of it in a children’s dictionary. It took a TV commercial, however, to cement Homer’s interest.

“A commercial for AT&T that featured two black fencers came on. I pointed it out to my mom, and I think just the visual of seeing these black males fencing was enough to make her think this was something that was attainable,” he told The Players’ Tribune last September.

Homer went on to train at the New York Fencers Club and was a four-time All-American at St. John’s. His coach with Team USA, Yury Gelman, also served as Homer’s coach with the Red Storm.

Homer had plenty of confidence heading into Rio, but now, with two Olympics under his belt and a medal around his neck, the fencing star isn’t slowing down.

His career—for now—may be defined by one move and one moment, but Homer is always ready for the next challenge. He’ll savor this experience, but he’s got his sights set on even more.