Tim Morehouse, originally from Riverdale in the Bronx, has an impressive career: He has competed on the US Olympic fencing teams in Athens, Beijing, and London (so far). Since winning a silver medal in the 2008 Beijing Games, Morehouse has consistently leveraged his influence to inspire kids across the world to lead active lifestyles and to find the excitement and fun in lesser-known sports. We spoke to Morehouse about his past life as a teacher in the New York City school system, his love of the sport, and more.
Tim Morehouse, originally from Riverdale in the Bronx, has an impressive career: He has competed on the U.S. Olympic fencing teams in Athens, Beijing, and London (so far). Since winning a silver medal in the 2008 Beijing Games, Morehouse has consistently leveraged his influence to inspire kids across the world to lead active lifestyles and to find the excitement and fun in lesser-known sports.
We spoke to Morehouse about his past life as a teacher in the New York City school system, his love of the sport, and more.
How did you get your start in fencing?
I had no idea what fencing even was when I got started. I saw a sign in the school when I was in seventh grade that said, “Join the fencing team and get out of gym”—so I went, not knowing what it was. I immediately saw that it was like sword fighting, and what kid doesn’t run around the house pretending to sword-fight? I just fell in love with it.
When did you realize that fencing was more of a passion than a hobby for you?
It was really my coach Martin Schneider who helped me. When I started fencing, I was struggling in school. I was a “C” student, and the more that I got into fencing, the better I did in school. My first coach instilled in me a lot of self-confidence and was one of the biggest influences in my life.
How did you begin the path to transform fencing into a career?
I went to Brandeis University, a Division III university. I was their first Olympian, and only Olympian so far! In fencing, we compete in all divisions, and by my sophomore year, I actually started beating a lot of the Division I athletes. My senior year, I was first-team All-American in a Division I ranking, coming from a Division III school. I was still far-off from the Olympic track, but I had improved every year, so I just thought, “Why don’t I just see how much I can improve if I really try?” I wanted to see how far I could take fencing. The first team that I ever made was in 2004, the Athens
Olympic team, at the age of 26. Usually people who make the team have been making World Championship Junior teams or Cadet teams—it’s not often that the first team that you make is the Olympic team, but it worked out that way for me.
Interacting with kids has also been a big part of your career. Can you speak about your involvement as a teacher here in New York City?
I graduated college and began working for Teach for America as a seventh-grade teacher, and I was training in the evenings. When I was teaching, my middle school had about 1,300 kids and no gym equipment at all. PE was only twice a week, and obesity was a huge problem in the school. The food that the kids were eating at school was really poor. Some of them would be eating Skittles or drinking Diet Coke for breakfast.
Did that experience propel you to make a difference for kids?
Yes. I am actually starting a foundation, Fencing-in-the-Schools, and we are going to be launching programs starting in February, the pilot programs. We are doing a lot of clinics and things right now, though, to test out our curriculum and lay the groundwork.
What is one of your proudest moments as an Olympian?
This past [London] Olympics, I was the captain in the meeting for the flag-bearer election. Getting my teammate Mariel Zagunis selected as flag-bearer in fencing is probably my most proud moment as an Olympian. I am as proud of the things that I’m able to do for other people as I am of the things I do for myself. I love being an advocate for kids and people who have done great things, so I couldn’t have been more proud to help get her elected flag-bearer. She was a symbol for both the small-sport athletes who are sort of overlooked at times in our coverage, and also the 40th anniversary of Title IX.
Do you have advice for kids who want to get into lesser-known sports programs such as fencing?
A lot of those sports are out there. We have fencing clubs in almost every city across the country. In New York, there are a lot of clubs, but they are just not ground level for you to see. You’ll be surprised at how many of those programs are out there for you to track down with just a little bit of research.
Will fans be able to see you competing in the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympic Games?
I’ll be aiming to make this year’s World Championship team in fencing. I have to figure out my life right now, but another run at the Olympics is not out of the question. I’m getting married in December and launching this program right now. Those things are priority, but if I can get those things going and feel like I have the time to commit to training, then maybe you will see me in Rio 2016. I haven’t determined that yet.
In addition to his Olympic career, Tim Morehouse is involved with Right To Play (righttoplayusa.org), and initiatives through the Partnership for a Healthier America (ahealthieramerica.org). He is also the author of “American Fencer: Modern Lessons from an Ancient Sport.” His foundation, Fencing-in-the-Schools, will launch its website and pilot programs in the coming months. For more information, visit timmorehouse.com.
To learn how your child can start fencing, read our article about the benefits of fencing for young children.