The first black U.S. president might be on the way out, but the year also saw several African American firsts in literature, entertainment, politics and sports.
After winning the silver medal in the men’s individual sabre fencing at Rio, Daryl Homer became the first American in 112 years to claim second place in the event. He also became the first U.S. man to medal in the event since Peter Westbrook took home the bronze at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Homer got his entry into the sport through the Peter Westbrook Foundation 15 years ago and has made two Olympic appearances.
No one in the sport of fencing does what Daryl Homer does.
No one in the sport fences quite the way Homer does.
No one in fencing combines the quickness, agility, creativity, balance, footwork — almost balletlike — aggression and power in quite the manner of Homer.
All that could help him make history in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Homer, who competes in saber, has the potential to be the first American to win a gold medal in fencing.
“The really cool thing is there are five or six of us on the team who are trying to be the first person to do it,” Homer said. “I’m just privileged to be in position where I have the opportunity to do it. That’s what I’m working toward.”
Homer, 25, took a silver medal in the saber competition Sunday in the USA Fencing DI and Wheelchair National Championships and April North American Cup at the Greater Richmond Convention Center.
Monday night in Richmond, he joined his teammates as they celebrated the official selection of the 2016 Olympic team. That was anticlimactic. All 17 spots had been determined through a series of qualifying matches.
Today, Homer planned to return to New York City, where he grew up and still resides.
Daryl Homer says that he lives in Harlem because “it’s halfway between Mom and practice.” Mom lives in Hudson Heights, near the Bronx, where Homer grew up; practice is at the Manhattan Fencing Center, on West Thirty-ninth Street, where, on a recent Friday night, he stretched while listening to the new Kanye West album on headphones. “ ‘Ultralight Beams’!” he said, a little too loudly. “This is excellence music. This is pump-up music.”
Homer, who is twenty-five, will need pumping up in August, when he fences in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. (He also competed in 2012, when he was a college sophomore; he finished sixth.) Peter Westbrook, a retired six-time Olympian, is considered the Michael Jordan of American fencing. Keeth Smart, a silver medallist, is probably second in the pantheon. Fencers tend to peak in their late twenties or early thirties. “Daryl is definitely on track to be one of the all-time great American fencers,” Smart said the other day. No American man has ever won an Olympic gold medal in fencing. In Rio, Homer might be our best shot.
With 2016 upon us, it’s time to look ahead to the new year. The Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games are just over seven months away and with so many great Team USA athletes, how is anyone supposed to know which ones to keep an eye on? To lend a hand, we’ve compiled a list of the 102 athletes who recently attended a promotional shoot with NBC Olympics and the United States Olympic Committee in West Hollywood, California. Here’s a sample of who to watch as the Road to Rio continues.