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‘We’re focused on what we can control’: Daryl Homer on handling coronavirus at the Tokyo Olympics

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Daryl Homer knows the Olympic Games, which begin July 23 in Tokyo, will be unlike any other.

“Normally, the Olympics is an experience where you kind of explore the city and you enjoy the culture. This is going to be kind of a bubble-type situation,” the two-time Olympic fencer told Yahoo Finance Live.

Olympic athletes will be tested for the coronavirus daily, they will have to wear masks while in the Olympic Village, and there will be no fans in the stands after Japan declared a state of emergency due to a spike in Covid cases.

“We’re going to figure out a lot on the ground,” he said. “I'm actually one of the earlier events, so I'll be testing everything as it happens pretty much. But I think the main things we're focused on is just what we can control, and that's just how we can perform and weather through all of these storms.”

Homer made history in the 2016 Rio Games when he became the first U.S. saber fencer to win an individual silver medal since 1904. Now, he’s gearing up for Tokyo, where he hopes to become the first American male saber fencer to win an individual gold.

2016 Rio Olympics - Fencing - Victory Ceremony - Men's Sabre Individual Victory Ceremony - Carioca Arena 3 - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 10/08/2016. Aron Szilagyi (HUN) of Hungary celebrates winning the gold medal with Daryl Homer (USA) of USA and Kim Jung-Hwan (KOR) of South Korea. REUTERS/Nacho Doce FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.
2016 Rio Olympics - Men's Sabre Individual Victory Ceremony - Carioca Arena 3 - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Aron Szilagyi of Hungary celebrates winning the gold medal with Daryl Homer of USA, who won silver, and Kim Jung-Hwan of South Korea, who took bronze. REUTERS/Nacho Doce.

Born in the Virgin Islands, Homer grew up in the Bronx, New York, with a single mother who supported his dream of fencing.

“I actually grew up not seeing many Black fencers,” said Homer, who has been practicing fencing five days a week since he was 11 years old.

“I saw Keeth Smart preparing for the '04 Games. I saw Akhi Spencer preparing for the 2000 Olympic Games. Erinn Smart and Keeth Smart winning medals in the 2008 games. So in a way, we have this fraternity or sorority that really is just a legacy that is being passed down,” he said.

Part of that legacy is Homer’s mentor, Peter Westbrook, the Olympic bronze medalist who was the first African American to win an Olympic medal in fencing. Homer got his start in fencing at the Peter Westbrook Foundation, whose mission is to bring the sport of fencing to under-served communities.

“I've gone from being a kid in the program looking up to Olympians to being the Olympian that kids look up to,” he said. “So it's a very deep experience. It's a very powerful experience, and I think it's something that I wish more people did and took part in.”

Homer admits fencing has been historically inaccessible and that the foundation has “created a program that's really changed the global complexion of the sport.”

“Specifically where I am in New York City, the Peter Westbrook Foundation has done an incredible job. They've had Olympians on the team primarily from the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Newark, N.J., from the inner city,” he said.

2016 Rio Olympics - Fencing - Final - Men's Sabre Individual Gold Medal Bout - Carioca Arena 3 - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 10/08/2016. Daryl Homer (USA) of USA competes with Aron Szilagyi (HUN) of Hungary. REUTERS/Issei Kato FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.
2016 Rio Olympics - Fencing - Final - Men's Sabre Individual Gold Medal Bout. Daryl Homer of USA competes with Aron Szilagyi of Hungary. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Homer has gone on to become the face of professional fencing, landing lucrative endorsement deals with companies including Toyota (TM), Ralph Lauren (RL), Lululemon (LULU), Nike (NKE), and Dick’s Sporting Goods (DKS). “The Olympic Games mean big sponsorship dollars for very few athletes, and so I've actually been on the more positive side of the sponsorships, and I'm blessed for that,” he said.

When it comes to managing the money he makes from those sponsorship deals, Homer said he takes a long-term outlook. “I'm lucky. I have very, very good family friends who advise me. I'm someone who looks at consistent long-term growth, so I'm invested in value stocks over time, growth funds. I just try to look at things that are valuable over time, that can help me have growth over time.”

At 31 years old, Homer said one of the only positive things about the 2020 Olympic Games being delayed a year because of the pandemic is that the next summer games are only three years away instead of four. “It gives you a shorter runway into the next one,” he said. The 2024 Olympic Games are set to take place in Paris.

“I think the fencing venue will be the Grand Palais,” he said, “so how do you turn that down?

Alexis Christoforous is an anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @AlexisTVNews.

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