The swashbuckling efforts of two Brooklyn born and bred siblings recently netted each a silver medal at the Beijing Olympics.
Three-time Olympian Keeth Smart, snared his medal as part of the men’s saber competition while his sister, Erinn Smart took home her silver medal in the women’s foil competition.
Making the accomplishment even more extraordinary was that prior to the Olympics, Keeth, formerly the #1 ranked fencer in the world, nearly lost his life battling ITP – a rare form of leukemia which he contracted while in Algiers at a world cup competition.
Though given a limited time to live, he miraculously recov ered from his ailment to compete in the Olympics.
“It was quite an unbelievable accomplishment,” said Keeth, who still has a residence in Ditmas Park and is going for an MBA at Columbia University.
Keeth explained that the two took up fencing as pre-teens after their father saw an article on fencing concerning the Peter Westbrook Foundation, a New York City-based fencing academy for inner-city youth.
“In Brooklyn everybody played basketball and I was not that good, and he definitely made the wise decision to encourage us to do fencing,” said Keeth.
“Once we took it up we both fell in love with the sport and kept pushing to go to different tournaments and practices,” he added.
The Smarts grew up in Flatbush with their now deceased parents and attended Brooklyn Tech before attending college.
In a previous Courier-Life story, Erinn, 28, explained that fencing is not like Zorro at all.
Erinn explained that in her weapon event, points and the match are garnered with “hits’ of the target including the back, torso, shoulders and rest of the upper body with the exception of the arms and head.
In Keeth’s saber competition the match is judged through slashing hits of the upper body.
As for Keeth’s Olympic experiences, he refused to say which of the three he participated in – Sydney, Athens or Beijing – were his favorite.
“Every Olympics is special in its own right, but the Beijing training facility was state of the art. They [China] spared no expense with any facilities or the Olympic village,” said Keeth, adding that he and his sister also visited the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven.
Keeth also heaped praise on the United States Olympic Committee, saying they treated the athletes better at this recent Olympics than the two previous Olympics in which he participated.
“This was the best treatment by the U.S. Olympic Committee. They did a great job this Olympic games. They coddled us and we received countless medical treatment whenever we wanted,” said Keeth.
Keeth said the entire U.S. Olympic squad was also very close and he got to know everyone including Michael Phelps, who won eight gold medals in swimming and basketball star Kobe Bryant.
Michael Phelps was very quiet and Kobe is a super nice guy, very personable and approachable, said Keeth.
Keeth said that with the Olympics over, he has been busy at Colombia and sees him and his sister hanging up their swords.
“We’re both probably going to stop now after winning a silver medal,” he said.