RIO DE JANEIRO — In coming up short of a gold medal, St. John’s graduate Daryl Homer still one-upped his mentor Peter Westbrook by earning silver in the sabre competition Wednesday night at the Summer Olympics.
Homer lost, 15-8, in the final to defending gold medalist Aron Szilagyi of Hungary, falling one win shy of becoming the first American male of the modern era to win individual fencing gold.
“I’m just very pleased,” Homer said. “This has been a journey for 15 years. I’m just happy to be on the podium, happy that I left it all out there, and then happy that I had faith in my abilities.
“I think I just overthought the match a little bit and got a little of the heebie jeebies.”
Westbrook earned bronze in Los Angeles in 1984 and used his platform to give poor New York kids a chance to try the sport. He couldn’t have picked a better success story than Homer, who moved from the U.S. Virgin Islands to New York with his single mother at age 5 and picked up the sport after seeing a picture of a masked fencer in a children’s dictionary.
“I wouldn’t have found the access for fencing without Peter,” Homer said. “He lives 10 blocks away from me. I stop by his house from time to time. I’ll probably stop by his house when I get back to talk a little trash because I’ve dethroned him.
“Peter’s a great, great guy, and I’m sure he’s emailed me already.”
Homer, a four-time All-American at St. John’s, joins fellow alumnus Keeth Smart as sabre silver medalists. Smart earned his in Beijing in 2008.
Homer won his first four matches Wednesday, including a dramatic 15-14 win against Mojtaba Abedini of Iran in the semifinal.
“I thought, ‘He might cut a different place, he might not, but you’re going for it,’ ” Homer said of the final point. “You have to lose on your own sword, you can’t fall down. I didn’t want to lose on something he initiated, I wanted to lose on something I believed would work.”
Homer, ranked 10th in the world, was sixth at the London Olympics in 2012. He won silver last year at the world championships in Moscow but had struggled since then.
“You start tinkering a little bit, trying to get better, and you fall off a little bit,” he said. “I perform way better on the bigger stages.
“I just love the pressure of it, and I love being free and I love putting all the marbles on the table and seeing who’s going to get them. I’m an all-or-nothing dude.”
When asked about Tokyo in 2020, the 26-year-old with unfinished business said he’s in.
“Let’s do it.”