All eyes are on this year’s Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, an idea Miles Chamley-Watson is happy to see. The London-born, New York-raised athlete is changing the narrative and look of fencing one victory at a time. The 26-year-old has already made history as the first American world fencing champion and even doubles as an in-demand model.
His chiseled frame almosts hides behind the tattoos that cover his melanin skin, which are just some of the features that differentiate him from his peers. He loves hip-hop and house music. He even taught Wu-Tang member Raekwon how to fence. Fitting into boxes isn’t a goal the athlete plans to achieve in Rio. For Chamely-Watson, it’s about coming back with the gold.
Speaking with Red Bull’s The Red Bulletin, the regal powerhouse expounds on his love for fencing, making the sport cool and plans for Rio. Check out an exclusive excerpt from the piece below.
The Red Bulletin: You said once that fencing is intimate, aggressive and emotional, so if you love those things in sport, you’ll fit right in.
Miles Chamley-Watson: That’s what draws me to it. When people come to watch fencing, they say the same. It’s one-on-one combat, and you can see the emotions on their face, and how they’re feeling, through the mask. (On my mask, you can’t—because it’s got a sick American flag and a Red Bull logo on the side.) But you can feed off the emotions of the opponent. When I’m on the strip, I hate everyone. After we’re done we can all hangout and have a drink at the bar. But, honestly, I hate every single person when I’m on the strip. And most people don’t have that.
Where does the anger come from?
From four to nine my mom pretty much raised me. Most people have both parents growing up. I didn’t have that until I was like 8 or 9, until my stepdad joined us. I had that anger from that time. I think that’s what fuels me. Most people don’t know that about me. I haven’t talked to my father in 10 or 11 years. If I ever refer to my dad, it’s my stepdad.
How did the Chamley-Watson move come about?
In 2009, I was fencing in Turkey against an Austrian guy. We were fencing in the preliminary rounds, and I was ahead 4-3. He ran at me and I parried him. Normally, you’d pull back and hit him after parrying him. Me, being [snorts] a genius, I whipped my foil back over my head and hit him in the middle of his chest. For a good two minutes, the referee was like, what happened? Then I watched the playback and thought, what did you just do? That’s the sickest thing I’ve ever seen. And I did it! I get surprised at what I do sometimes. It’s not me being cocky. Now I’m doing other moves, like hitting between my legs. The only reason I can do these moves is because my arms are so long. These things are also bringing fencing to a different level—and kids love seeing this stuff. They don’t want to see the normal touches. They want to see this cool stuff.
Your track record has been up and down since your win at the world championships. What approach do you have going into Rio?
Now is the time to peak. I want to be in the Olympics as the guy to beat. I want to win everything from now on. I’d rather go in as the champion to beat, than the underdog with something to prove. Having a chip on your shoulder is great, but I have that no matter what. I want to peak now and sustain it.
Do you have butterflies thinking about it?
Yes. I get them before every competition. I think they’re amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever competed without butterflies, even if I have nothing on the line. And if they go away, I’ll probably hang it up. They’re fuel.”
Check out the rest of the interview here.