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African-American makes history by winning silver medal in Fencing

By Christine Brennan, USA TODAY

Daryl Homer, the son of a single mother from the Virgin Islands who became fascinated by fencing when he saw a picture of two fencers in a children’s dictionary at the age of 5, became the first American to win a silver medal in men’s individual sabre in 112 years Wednesday night at the Olympic Games.

Homer, 26, the 2015 world silver medalist who is ranked 10th in the world, lost the gold medal match to longtime rival Aron Szilagyi of Hungary, 15-8. Szilagyi also won the gold in London four years ago, where Homer finished sixth.

“I’m just very, very pleased,” Homer said. “Just happy to be on the podium, happy that I competed, happy that I left it all out there. I think I just overthought the match a little bit, got a little of the heebie-jeebies.”

Homer became the first U.S. man to win an Olympic medal in individual sabre since Peter Westbrook, who won the bronze at the boycotted 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Like Westbrook, Homer is black, a rarity in the sport.

An American has never won a gold in men’s individual sabre. William Grebe, a Chicagoan who was born four years after the Civil War ended, won a silver in 1904. He died in 1960.

Homer’s silver is a testament to the power of Olympic role models. A few years after he first heard of the sport, he saw a commercial featuring two fencers promoting New York City’s bid to host the 2012 Olympics, and he was smitten.

“You put a sword in any kid’s hand, they’re going to like it,” he said.

Homer’s mother then happened upon an organization called, interestingly enough, the Peter Westbrook Foundation. Yes, it was founded by the L.A. bronze medalist in the 1990’s in the hope of spreading fencing to underserved New York-area children who otherwise would never be introduced to the sport.

“I wouldn’t have found an access point to fencing without Peter, so I probably wouldn’t have been here,” Homer said, his silver medal hanging around his neck.

Now Homer and Westbrook live 10 blocks apart in New York City. They speak and email often. Homer even watched videos of Westbrook’s 1984 Olympic performance to prepare for these Games.

So, as Homer accepted his silver medal on his sport’s grandest stage, following in Westbrook’s footsteps, it was impossible to not think that for him, and for his mentor, everything had come full circle.


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