Mask off

Olympic medalist Daryl Homer is changing the face of fencing

En garde” echoes throughout the room while a group of children from around New York City gather to take in a sport that many of us only get to see once every four years: fencing. Two competitors are sparring in the center. They are going back and forth with lunges and attacks, parries and disengages. The scene is similar to what you would see in fencing classes across the country: feet shuffling, metal blades clinking and buzzers going off once contact is made to give a point to the victor. But this room isn’t like any fencing program you have seen before. It’s full of predominantly African-American and Latino youngsters from the ages of 8 to 18 watching the last two U.S. Olympic medalists, Peter Westbrook and Daryl Homer, who also happen to be African-American, show them the sport.

Westbrook took the bronze medal at the 1984 Olympics for individual saber and became the first African-American to medal in the Olympics for fencing. The opportunities provided by that performance led him to create the Peter Westbrook Foundation in 1991, which has introduced more than 4,000 people to the sport of fencing. One of those participants was Homer. The 27-year-old started in the sport about 16 years ago and quickly worked his way through the fencing world, winning medals in the Pan American Championships and World Championships and finally bringing home the first Olympic silver medal in fencing for the United States since 1904.

Daryl Homer won his the Silver medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Homer, ranked No. 2 in the U.S. and No. 11 in the world in saber, has been working along with the foundation to create more opportunities to get African-American and Latino children involved in fencing. The sport has garnered attention as former participants in the foundation have made headway in competition, including Khalil Thompson, who took gold at the 2017 Junior Pan Am Games, and Marcel Merchant.

Daryl Homer puts on his jacket before starting an afternoon training session at the Peter Westbrook Foundation in New York.

Daryl Homer (left) spars while Peter Westbrook (center) and others watch. The afternoons at the foundation not only bring in professional fencers but also serve as a leadership program for many of the teenagers who are looking to develop their skills in the sport.

Peter Westbrook (left) and Daryl Homer joke around after sparring during an afternoon training session. Westbrook, who won a bronze medal at the 1984 Olympics, began the foundation in New York to grow the sport among African-Americans and Latinos, leading to the Olympic careers of Homer as well as Ibtihaj Muhammad.

Daryl Homer lunges forward during an afternoon sparring session while others in the class look on.

Students in the Peter Westbrook Foundation’s Saturday Fencing Program watch as Daryl Homer (right) instructs a student on footwork and how to attack. The Saturday Fencing Program introduces students ages 8 to 18 to the sport of fencing. Skill levels range from beginner to advanced, giving children the chance to grow in the program.

Children in the Saturday Fencing program work on their “en garde” position.

Daryl Homer (left) tries to disengage during a sparring match at the Peter Westbrook Foundation.

Daryl Homer (center), along with some of the students in the After School Leadership Program, take a break while watching a sparring match.

Daryl Homer jumps rope during a training session to prepare for upcoming bouts.

Daryl Homer looks at himself in a mirror after a workout session on a Saturday afternoon. Homer was coming off a slew of events before preparing for the North American Cup in Virginia Beach, Virginia, where he took home the top prize in saber.

Riding in the back seat, Daryl Homer checks his phone while making his way down to Virginia Beach, along with many others from the Peter Westbrook Foundation, to compete in the North American Cup. Homer would be going for a repeat if he took first place this year in the tournament.

Fans take photos while Daryl Homer faces off against an opponent during the North American Cup.

Ahmed Yilla (left) Khalil Thompson (right) and Daryl Homer (center) check their North American Cup standings while waiting to start their next matches.

Daryl Homer gets a point after a successful lunge during this match against Rafael Western.

Daryl Homer yells after scoring a point against Kaito Streets.

Daryl Homer jumps back after a failed attack from Marcel Merchant.

Daryl Homer (left) embraces Marcel Merchant after their match at the North American Cup.

With blade raised, Daryl Homer celebrates after his victory over Khalil Thompson, his training partner at the Peter Westbrook Foundation, to advance in the North American Cup.

Brent Lewis is a former Senior Photo Editor of The Undefeated and a lover of all things Chicago except Chicago Mix popcorn. #justcheeseplease