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Daryl Homer and Tim Morehouse Place Sixth and Eighth in Mens Saber at the Olympic Games

07/29/2012, 12:30pm CDT
By Nicole Jomantas

(London) – Teammates both on the U.S. Olympic Team and at the Manhattan Fencing Center, Daryl Homer (Bronx, N.Y.) and Tim Morehouse (New York City, N.Y.) came to London through drastically different routes, but the saber fencers both advanced to the quarter-finals of the Olympic Games on Sunday.

Morehouse is often referred to as “the face of fencing.” If there’s a red carpet, he’s on it. Want an interview? He’ll do it. Competing at his second Olympic Games on his 34th birthday, Morehouse has spread the word of fencing to everyone from celebrities to the President of the United States after winning a silver medal in the team event in Beijing.

Homer came to London as a first-time Olympian with something to prove. Although he has been ranked as high as #12 in the world and earned gold at the 2011 Pan American Championships, the newly turned 22-year-old has never won an individual World Cup medal and is the youngest member of the U.S. Men’s Saber Team.

While Morehouse came to the sport as a way to get out of junior high gym class and was recruited to fence in college by Division III Brandeis University, Homer found fencing in the dictionary at age five and had won bronze at the Cadet Worlds by age 16. Although he has described his career as a young fencer as “lackluster,” he went on to earn three medals at the Junior and Cadet World Championship level and a scholarship to fencing powerhouse St. John’s University.

Both athletes came to London determined to win a medal which would have been the first individual podium finish for a U.S. men’s saber fencer since Peter Westbrook (New York City, N.Y.) took bronze at the 1984 Games.

And both athletes had the challenge of seeding to face as Homer started the day as the 18th ranked fencer in the world. Morehouse was 27th.

But each said from the beginning of the day that they didn’t come to London just to compete – they came to surprise [Morehouse] and inspire [Homer].

Fencing first as one of three U.S. athletes with byes into the table of 32, Homer met Tiberiu Dolniceanu (ROU) in his opening bout.

Although Dolniceanu eliminated Homer in the table of 64 at the 2011 Senior Worlds, the American built a 12-11 lead before closing out the bout, 15-13, after two red cards were awarded to the Romanian.

Up next, Morehouse showed no fear against 2010 Senior World medalist Veniamin Reshetnikov (RUS) when he followed an 8-5 lead at the break with six straight touches to take the score to 14-5. Although the Russian scored once more, Morehouse ended the bout, 15-6, to set the tone for a day that would be filled with upsets.

After falling in the first round of the individual event in 2008, Morehouse came to London determined not to repeat past mistakes.

“In 08, in my first match I got a big lead and then I got ahead of myself, so here I got a big lead and I thought that I want to try and win this. I just wanted to go out and fight and remember that there’s no embarrassment no matter what happens and if the victory was there, I’ll take it,” Morehouse said.

With his first Olympic bout win out of the way, Homer’s next opponent was Alexey Yakimenko (RUS) – the #2-ranked fencer in the world.

Up by a two-touch margin, 8-6, at the half, Homer looked set to put Yakimenko away at 14-9.

But the Russian didn’t become one of the best fencers in the world without knowing how to fight and, indeed, Yakimenko clawed back to tie the score at 14.

With the crowd stamping and cheering like nothing the venue had seen yet during these Games, Yakimenko fought Homer for five more chances at the win with each exchange being ruled a “simultaneous attack” – nearly all of which resulted in the referees reviewing video.

“I think they really want to be cautious and not hurt people’s dreams, so I think that was the best thing,” Homer said of the video reviews. “Let’s not make any quick mistakes, any hasty calls… It slows the bout down and it gives you more chance to think too.”

And think is just what Homer did during the breaks.

“I was trying to calculate the chances of ‘would he take a risk?’ Would he take a risk, when he would, what the risk would be and then I finally realized after we cut together simultaneous to the head and to four… I wasn’t sure where he was going to cut, but I knew that if I took counter five with the timing that I could catch both,” Homer said. “The main thing is I wasn’t sure if he’d be willing to take a risk and step out, but, after we’d had simultaneous four or five times of together, together, together and then we did jumped out together, I thought that I knew he was going to go now. My friend said before I came here that, if it was 14-14, and something crazy came into my head, than I should just do it. So that’s what I said to myself before I did it and that’s what he said – ‘No regrets.’”

The decision paid off as Homer scored the final touch to win the bout, 15-14.

Homer then stayed on the floor to watch his teammate finish his bout against Dmitri Lapkes (BLR) – the former #2-ranked fencer in the world.

“[The win] says a lot because Alexey Yakimenko is the best fencer in the world right now. I grew up idolizing him. He’s a great fencer and a very nice person. It was definitely great to win that match. It shows that I’m on the right path,” Homer said.

Although Morehouse was up, 13-10, Lapkes came back to tie the bout at 13 with three straight touches. Morehouse answered with two of his own to end the bout, 15-13.

The teammates congratulated each other and then parted ways to prepare for the quarter-finals knowing that, if they each won the next round, an all-American semifinal would be set.

Fencing at the same time on adjacent strips, Homer trailed 2009 World silver medalist Rares Dumitrescu (ROU) by three touches, 8-5, after the break.

Homer came back in the second half to tie the bout at 12, but the Romanian took the win, 15-13, to leave Homer with a sixth-place finish.

“Dumitrescu is more difficult for me [than Yakimenko] who I match up pretty well with stylistically. He’s strong. He’s huge. He’s long. He’s much more difficult, but that’s probably one of the best bouts I’ve ever had with him. Those guys are two of the best four fencers in the world on any given day and, unfortunately, I had to run into two of them back-to-back,” Homer said.

On the other strip, Diego Occhiuzzi (ITA) was up by four touches, 12-8, against Morehouse when Morehouse was given a red card for starting an attack before “Allez” was called.

“I think we knew coming in that they were going to be calling it really tight. I was trying to make sure I didn’t start early, but I know that when the Italians fence me they try and get on me before I can set up a defense and there were a couple of touches where he was able to get on me before I was able to completely set up what I wanted to do,” Morehouse said.

The card marked the third false start penalty of the bout as Morehouse and Occhiuzzi were both carded earlier for the same offense.

Morehouse scored once more before the Italian won the bout, 15-9, and went on to take the silver medal.

“My goal was to try and win the tournament and give it everything I had and I did that out there … I had two great matches today which I’m really happy about. Tactically, I think I got a little too much into his game and dancing around and talking to the refs, but that’s on me in terms of focus and concentrating, but he’s a great fencer” Morehouse said. “Overall, it’s a solid day for me. Not quite what I wanted, but I’ll take away any lessons I can from this experience.”

The U.S. Men’s Saber Team will face Russia in the quarter-finals of the team event on Friday.

“We beat two of their fencers individually today. In my honest opinion, I think Russia came here today thinking they were going to walk all over us and I think we just proved to them that they’re going to have to rewrite their plan in the next few days if they want to beat us,” Homer said. “We have our plan and it was successful. I think that, if we can execute in the team event, I’m very confident in how we’ll do.”

Morehouse agreed and said that Team USA is looking forward building on the momentum created by today’s results as they prepare to face Russia – the #2-ranked team in the world.

“We were underdogs here, we’ll be underdogs there, but it’s the same thing. We’re gonna fight as hard as we can and, at the end of the day, we just want to make our country proud. I think I did that and Daryl did that as well,” Morehouse said. I know in big spots I’m generally going to fence well and I don’t know that that’s going to guarantee I’m going to win, but … I think people know we can fence and it’s on us to perform. It’s the Olympics and you’ve gotta take your shots.”

A silver medalist in the team event with Morehouse in Beijing, James Williams (Sacramento, Calif. / New York City, N.Y.) also competed on Sunday, but was eliminated by eventual bronze medalist Nikolay Kovalev (RUS), 15-12, in the table of 32.

“I think I started off a little slow. I got into the swing of things and then, from about nine or 10 to 11, I started doing my preparations a little too soon and he was able to recognize that it was a fake. He did a good job of switching from slow attacks to fast attacks and I didn’t really execute that as well as I would have liked to. I landed a lot of my attacks. I landed a high percentage of my long attacks,” Williams said. “Obviously, I wish I had one the match, but I was happy to be out there and represent my country. It’s an honor.”

The competition schedule for Team USA on Sunday is as follows (All times local):

10:30 a.m.
Women’s Individual Epee Table of 64
Susie Scanlan (St. Paul, Minn.) vs. Olena Kryvytska (UKR)

12:50 p.m.
Women’s Individual Epee Table of 64
Maya Lawrence (Teaneck, N.J.) vs. Mara Navarria (ITA)
Courtney Hurley (San Antonio, Texas)
vs. Laura Flessel-Colovic (FRA)

2:10 p.m.
Women’s Individual Epee Table of 16

3:30 p.m.
Women’s Individual Epee Quarter-finals

6 p.m.
Women’s Individual Epee Semifinals

7:10 p.m.
Women’s Individual Epee Bronze Medal Match

7:40 p.m.
Women’s Individual Epee Gold Medal Match

Top eight and U.S. results in the men’s individual saber event are as follows:

Men’s Individual Saber
1. Aron Szilagyi (HUN)
2. Diego Occhiuzzi (ITA)
3. Nikolay Kovalev (RUS)
4. Rares Dumitrescu (ROU)
5. Nicolas Limbach (GER)
6. Daryl Homer (Bronx, N.Y.)
7. Max Hartung (GER)
8. Tim Morehouse (New York City, N.Y.)

25. James Williams (Sacramento, Calif. / New York City, N.Y.)

Tag(s): News  Daryl Homer