Daryl Homer is a nice, polite and eloquent guy. He is also reliably sharp and precise as he strikes his opponents with the point of his saber. Consistently tenacious in his personal and professional life, Homer’s hunger for success is insatiable. Perhaps that is why he is the youngest member of the 2012 Olympic US saber fencing team and current US Champion.
Homer majors in advertising at St. Johns University, and is a well-read, well-mannered individual. His taste in books and movies tends to be more serious, if not refined, and his ability to think both fast and critically has earned him success in his studies as well as his athletic endeavors. So let’s meet him.
Planet Ill: You’re not originally from New York?
Daryl Homer: No, I was born in the Virgin Islands, and I moved to Boston when I was 4 years old, then I moved to the Bronx when I was 5.
Planet Ill: How did you get into fencing?
Daryl Homer: I read about fencing in a children’s dictionary when I was 5 years old. There was a picture of a guy with a mask on. He had this saber in his hand and I thought it was very cool. I think that was my first but very small exposure. At 10 years old, I saw an advertisement leading up to the 2000 Olympic games featuring a fencer…I was like, “whoa, I really want to do that.” At that point my mom kind of looked at me and she was like, “hey, let’s see what we can do” and she found a club.
Planet Ill: I read something about Zorro, can you explain?
Daryl Homer: Yeah, Zorro is more similar to the discipline of fencing that I am practicing currently and I thought Zorro was just really cool. I liked that they (characters) were battling with swords, leaving cool “Z” marks in everything. So I thought Zorro was a really cool influence.
Planet Ill: Does Star Wars fit somewhere in there as well?
Daryl Homer: Not a Star Wars fan unfortunately, but I did have a light saber when I was younger.
Planet Ill: When you began to fence, what organization did you start in?
Daryl Homer: I started at the Peter Westfield foundation, on 25th street. Luckily they are paired with The New York Fencers Club so I was able to meet my coach (Yury Gelman), my Olympic coach, at the fencer’s club. At that time at the foundation and we worked together from I think a month into my fencing career.
Planet Ill: What has Yury Gelman done for you?
Daryl Homer: Everything. He was my first coach and I think he was there for some of the most important moments in my life. I still remember one of the most touching moments for me was when, for my 21st birthday last year, he called me, and I was like, “wow, you called me on my birthday”. But we have a lot of moment’s together, ups and downs, we worked really hard together and I think that we are both happy with where we are.
Planet Ill: How was it to have a Russian fencing coach?
Daryl Homer: Well, we have no real fencing tradition here in America, really coaches from Russia, predominantly from Russia and the Ukraine and a little bit from Hungary came here and really tried to establish this tradition…Russians really mastered the fencing school and they brought that same mastery here which is why we have a chance to compete.
Planet Ill: Fencing is something that runs in the family?
Daryl Homer: My sister actually started fencing around the same time that I did. She’s now the captain of Columbia Universities fencing team so she did pretty well with it too.
Daryl Homer: Yes. I do saber fencing and she’s a foil fencer.
Planet Ill: What are the three types of fencing?
Daryl Homer: So there are three weapons in fencing, foil, saber and epée. There’s the men and women’s division for each. So saber, the weapon that I practice, is most similar to Zorro. It’s more slashing and its target is everywhere from the waist up, so your arms, your mask, everything. Epée and foil are a much more disciplined weapon, those weapons you only get hit with the point. So, epée the whole body is a target, in foil only the front of the torso, the back of the torso and only a little bit of the neck is a target.
Planet Ill: What was your first competition like and how old were you?
Daryl Homer: When I was 11 years old, I fenced at a competition at the armory in Washington Heights and I was in last place.
Planet Ill: I would probably quit. Why didn’t you?
Daryl Homer: First, I think I was only fencing for three or four months, so there really is nothing you can do at that point. But I think my mom was very supportive, my mother and my coach were both very supportive of me continuing to fence, and I think everyone really believed I could be a strong fencer if I put the hard work in and continued to stay motivated.
Planet Ill: You like to listen to music before matches. What does it do for you and whom do you listen to?
Daryl Homer: They call it swag, it kind of ups your swagger, ups your confidence. I try to recreate the time when you’re, everyone I think has this moment, you’re fourteen years old and you’re just blasting music and you’re getting really pumped up, and that’s what I try to recreate come competition, cause that’s when I feel my calmest, that’s when I feel the most confident. I listen to all types of music, everything from hip hop, house, R&B, electronic, deep house, pop, rock, so I listen to pretty much every genera of music. You’ll find Taylor Swift in my iPod.
Planet Ill: Name me some of the artists that you actually listen to.
Daryl Homer: So I like, Nas, I’ve told you that I have listened to Taylor Swift before competitions, I have teammates who listed to Madonna before competitions, Linkin Park, Finch, Taking Back Sunday, Save the Day, Postal Service, David Guetta, Jay-Z, pertly much every type of music. Recently I’m really in to dub step, so all the popular artists of that genera. So any type of music really, anything that makes me feel confident.
Planet Ill: Why do you pursue advertising?
Daryl Homer: There is no established career path in fencing after you go pro. You can try to find a sponsorship once you are done but I think it’s a safer bet, generally, to really follow your academic studies as well. So for me, I’ve always seen myself as a fencer and as a person, so I would like to develop myself as both – professionally, personally. So, advertising is just something that I enjoy because I like to put out creative products but second of all, I really like the ability to analyze people, figure out the target market, how to reach them and really see how the people react. In a way advertising is the driver of culture, it can’t be in the back of culture, advertising can’t be behind culture, it has to be at the front, trendsetting, pushing ahead. If you remember some products were advertised with African Americans before they were allowed to sit at the front of the bus. Advertising really portrays society in a way, or it portrays the way society should be going.
Planet Ill: Where did you get into advertising initially?
Daryl Homer:I really lucked in; I had a teammate whose father, a teammate at St. Johns, whose father owes an advertising agency in Madrid. So we were friends for three or four years so he kind of put me up to this idea. And once I kind of saw that, I was like, “wow, this is cool stuff”. I took an intro class and said, “Wow, I want to change my major”.
Planet Ill: What was your major initially?
Daryl Homer: I went into school thinking I’d get into government and politics and I was pretty good at that…I thought, maybe I’d try out accounting which is definitely not my personality. It’s a little bland for myself so then I tried marketing, but then I had to take accounting classes and I was like “ehhh”. Then I kind of found the agency side of things and I realized that the agency, or the client side, you’re still getting pretty much the same thing.
Planet Ill: In a non-athletic sense, what are you personality characteristics you consider the strongest?
Daryl Homer:I love to be in control. I’m kind of domineering, I don’t want to use that word but I’d say I’m a little domineering. I’m a helpful person, I can be strategic, I am always trying, I am ambitious, motivated, strong willed, stubborn,
Planet Ill: Are you a Capricorn?
Daryl Homer:I am a cancer, sensitive, very sensitive.
Planet Ill: In athleticism, what are your strengths?
Daryl Homer: My motivation, my ambition, my hard work, my ability to work hard, I’m also very hungry, I’ve always been a student of the craft so if I apply myself to something I really want to be the best at it. So those are my strengths. My weaknesses are probably my stubbornness, my sensitivity; at times I can be arrogant so those are definitely my biggest weaknesses.
Planet Ill: How does sensitivity play into this?
Daryl Homer: You know, they say that the main thing you have to learn in sports is how to control, how to handle pressure is the main thing. What goes hand in hand with that is being able to control your emotions. A lot of people don’t realize that, most people can’t control their emotions and that’s probably my biggest fault. I’ve made huge leaps with that inside of fencing…
Planet Ill: Who’s an idol for you?
Daryl Homer: Keeth Smart, he has the same coach that I do, Yury Gelman. He was the first American to be number 1 in the world. He won a silver medal in Beijing; he’s a three time Olympian, a two time American champion, multiple-time national champion, and multiple-time world cup medalist. So that’s who I look up to.
Planet Ill: Thank you for the interview and best of luck competing.
Daryl Homer: Thank you very much.
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