Sword fighting has been popular in action movies for years. From Darth Vader’s light saber to Captain Jack Sparrow’s rapier, sword toting swashbucklers have captivated audiences across the silver screen for generations. Ask any 6-year old boy his favorite Star Wars weapon, invariably he will say, and show you, the light saber. While several of these boys will fight each other in the back yard with plastic replicas, very few of them will adopt fencing as a competitive sport.
Enter Olympian Daryl Homer…
Daryl spent his formative years in New York City. Inspired by the black clad, masked Zorro, his trademark “Z” slash, and rapier, Daryl moved from fan to participant. He began fencing for the New York Fencing Club at age 11. As a young student, he saw many Olympians prepare for the 2004 and 2008 games with his coach. To say he is prepared for London is an understatement.
Olympic fencing has three weapons: the epee, foil, and sabre. The United States historically has been successful in epee, which allows combatants to strike the opponent anywhere with a poke; in 2008 the US swept women’s individual epee in Beijing. Foil is more disciplined, permitting touches only to the front and back of the jacket. Sabre fighters target each other from the waist up and can use any type of sword action including slashing.
About his weapon Daryl said, “I started in foil. It was too disciplined,” so he switched to sabre. Daryl will represent the US in men’s sabre in London. We asked him to describe his style in one word, “Aggressive. I’m aggressive.” Tell us more, “I’m 5’ 8”. Most guys are taller, like 6’ 3”. I have to be aggressive to make up for the height disadvantage. I’m technical. I don’t make any wide movements.” What about your strengths as a fencer? “My footwork on the strip and my coordination.”
Using his hands, Daryl showed us the three principle fencing footwork movements: forward, backward, and attacking lunge. To outlast larger opponents with superior reach, Daryl combines his footwork, coordination, athleticism, and superior conditioning in an effort to make opponents miss and capitalize on the opening.
About London he says, “I feel anything is possible. I’m better than before the season. We have two returners from the 2008 Silver Medal team and two young guys. I am trying to maximize my strengths and minimize my weaknesses.”
Daryl has fenced all over the world and visited more of Europe as a teenager than most Americans will see in a lifetime. He is ready for the big stage. Currently, he is fencing twice per day, five days per week. The focus is on situational drills perfecting techniques, footwork, distance and spacing, and conditioning. In between, he stretches and runs boosting his endurance.
So, how does this fencer get ready for a match? “The mental preparation starts the day before. I think of all possible outcomes, rationalizing how I feel.” Daryl tries to simulate the Olympic pre-match experience by trying to liken the fear and excitement of going into a match to the fear and excitement of going into an Olympic match.
When it’s fight time, he listens to a vast array of house, hip hop, and rock on his iPod to get ready. “It’s time, let’s go!” Daryl has found success this year beating an array of 2008 Olympians. He is currently ranked 13th in the world and in the recent Spanish World Cup was one point from advancing to the round of the final eight. [pullquote_right]“Anything can happen. I am gaining confidence.”[/pullquote_right]
His stock is rising and is looking to peak in London.
In an event where the average Olympian’s age is late twenties, the articulate, 21-year old Daryl Homer looks to be a mainstay for years to come.
To hear all this in Daryl’s own words check out our 1-on-1 Olympic Profile below.
Storified by James Hicks · Mon, May 21 2012 14:10:01
Image via NCAA