UNION, NJ – Omari Smoak of Union is excelling at a sport some people only know about from swashbuckling movies. Smoak took up fencing when he was 9 years old and has excelled in the sport ever since.
Smoak won the first place gold medal, out of 244 competitors, in the Junior Men’s Epee Division (under 20 years old) at the largest USA national fencing competition of the year. Smoak also won a medal in the Senior Men’s Epee Division (49 years and younger). Out of 121 competitors, Omari ranked 7th.
The USA Fencing Summer National Championships and July Challenge took place over the July 4th weekend in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was the largest national domestic competition of the year.
“My family and I are super proud of Omari,” said his mom and number one fan Denise Odom. “Omari showed up and brought home not one, but two, medals.”
Earlier this season, Smoak won a medal at the Milwaukee, Wisconsin North American Cup, coming in 5th place out of 260 competitors. He also placed in the top 32% at both the Columbus Ohio North American Cup and the Baltimore Maryland North American Cup.
“Omari has a lot of talent, drive, aspiration and a great fighting spirit,” said his first coach and mentor Peter Westbrook. Westbrook is the Founder and CEO of the Westbrook Foundation and a 1991 sabre fencer and Olympic bronze medalist. “Without a positive fighting spirit it is hard to win. Omari has a lot of that.” Smoak has been with the Peter Westbrook Foundation for almost 10 years.
“I feel blessed and thankful for all those who supported me and continue to support me including my parents, my coach, the Fencers Club New York and of course my home based fencing family The Peter Westbrook Foundation,” said Smoak.
Smoak trains at the Peter Westbrook Foundation every Saturday morning, practicing drills, footwork, cardio, running and practice bouts with other members of the club including world champions and Olympians. “The Peter Westbrook Foundation is my home,” said Smoak.
“Omari loves giving back to his PWF family,” added Westbrook. “When one gives like Omari, he receives big time rewards in fencing, academics and in life.”
Smoak, 18, said he trains 4-5 days a week at the Fencers Club in New York with his personal coach Alexey Cheremsky. The Fencers Club was established in 1883 and is the oldest fencing club in the United States. Smoak trains one day a week for track workouts, but mainly it’s fencing practice.
There are three different and distinct types of weapons used in fencing: epée, foil and sabre. Each has its own blade, set of rules and target area. Some rules, however, remain constant for all three weapons. Smoak’s discipline is epée.
The basic goal of fencing is to score the most hits (or touches) on your opponent with your weapon. The epée is the heaviest of the three fencing weapons. Like the foil, a touch only counts if it is made with the tip of epée; however, both fencers can score from touches made at the same time. An epée hit counts anywhere on the body.
Smoak is a sophomore attending St. Johns University in Queens, NY majoring in television and film. He is not on the fencing team there because he wanted to focus on his academics the first year, but he said he will probably try out for the team this year. Smoak is an intern at Scholastic Publishing in New York City.
Smoak said he loves photography, art, fashion and being creative. He and his business partner, Jackson Edwards, have designed a line of tee-shirts called ActionandSmoak. “We launched the company in March, 2016, to help offset the cost of our fencing expenses.” Actionand Smoak tees can be found at www.ActionandSmoak.com
“I have high aspirations and know that Omari will represent the United States on future World Championship Teams and future Olympic Team,” said Westbrook.
“My future aspirations are to continue training so that I can become a National Champ, World Champ and eventually an Olympian,” said Smoak.