Taylor Chon: Pursuing the Olympic Dream

Mayer Sidikaro, Projects Writer

As a child, sophomore Taylor Chon tried sport after sport but couldn’t find one that suited him. Not baseball, not basketball, not football. While he enjoyed playing all the sports, Chon lacked the passion to pursue them long term. He wanted to be in control and completely self-reliant. Then he discovered fencing.  

Taylor’s father, Daniel Chon, wanted to fence as a child but never picked up the sabre. When Taylor was in fourth grade, Daniel Chon decided to introduce his son to sabre fencing so he enrolled Taylor to a fencing summer camp.  

Chon considers himself a student of the game. Now, he spends many late nights fencing at Globus Fencing Academy.  

In the beginning, there was nothing extraordinary about Chon’s fencing career. He struggled in tournaments and even considered switching sports. He found a lot of adversity in the beginning, but this only motivated him to keep pushing.  

“When I started fencing, I was competing at small regional events.” said Chon. “I remember getting very emotional mid-bout, as I was losing three or four touches in a row to an opponent who was two years older than me and a couple inches taller than me. And I just remember, at that moment, wanting to win really badly.”  

Chon recalled bout after bout, experiencing the failure that comes with the beginning of a long, promising career. Each loss only added to his desire to perfect his craft and dominate the sport.  

“He wasn’t very good from the get-go,” said Lauren Chon, Taylor’s mother. “We had many tournaments that ended with tears, and this continued until Taylor was about thirteen.”  

Although he didn’t experience fast success, Chon said he knew that he could one day become a great fencer and that this was only the beginning of his fencing journey.  

“I was a little 12-year-old kid, but I connected with the sports and was able to find a great level of passion which really helped me to work hard towards set goals,” said Chon.  

Inside the World of Fencing

Since fourth grade, Chon has worked relentlessly to climb national and international rankings and find success in the world of Fencing.  

Greenhill doesn’t offer the sport, which has forced Chon to pursue it outside of school. In the US, there are about 40,000 registered fencers and worldwide there are 700,000. Fencing works on a system of ratings, rankings, age groups, and points. To rise in national rankings and qualify for international tournaments a competitor must obtain points by facing skilled opponents with high ratings at national level tournaments. When a competitor faces an opponent with a higher rating, a win can improve one’s rating.  

A is the highest rating and the lowest rating is E. “U” rating indicates that the fencer is not yet rated. Chon’s rating is A22, which means that he is the highest rated fencer in the year 2022. To be invited to certain tournaments, a fencer must have both a high rating and ranking to qualify.  

A beginner fencer will participate in regional tournaments and work their way up to larger tournaments until they reach the national level. After achieving certain success at the national level, usually top 20 national ranking, an advanced fencer can represent their country internationally.  

There are three different disciplines in fencing: foil, épée, and sabre. Chon is a saberist, and he has practiced sabre for his entire fencing career. The main difference between sabre and the other forms is the target area where points are gained from tip and either side of the blade. The target area is limited to the waist and up.  

“Fencing is a game of strategy,” Chon said. “I have to get my opponents out of position, gain the offensive position and then hit the body of my opponent to score a point.” 

Fencing matches are called bouts and they occur on a mat called a strip. The fencers begin at two lines in the middle of the strip called their en-garde lines. En-Garde lines are about 4 meters away from each other and 6 feet wide. After the referee calls out “En Garde,” fencers put on their masks and wait for a signal from the referee to begin.  

“As of recent, fencing has been labeled as a sport that just generates college scholarships, but it really is more than that to me and it’s been a major factor in my life for a long time,” said Chon. 

COVID-19 Challenges

After a number of years of modest success, Chon had a breakthrough at age 13. He began to experience the success that he had worked for. Chon says he knew it was only the beginning, but then, Covid 19 hit in March 2020, putting all athletic events on hold. This included fencing. Chon’s rise was suddenly frozen in place.  

With competitions and practices suspended, Chon could have stopped working on his game. He says he knew this was not the route that he wanted to go. Instead, he decided to buy a fencing dummy and continue practicing on his own.  

“During COVID it was really, really hard to stay motivated,” said Chon. “I think all athletes go to practice to stay motivated, at least that was my case, and I couldn’t go to practice. Doing these drills at home can be boring and tedious but I had to push through.”  

After Chon got through the isolation phase of the pandemic, he reentered tournaments ready to pick up where he left off. But even though he had been practicing alone, there was still some “rust” to be knocked off.  

“I didn’t perform my best at my first few events when the tournaments reopened, and the results were disappointing,” said Chon. “I felt I was beginning to fall off the top. That was not a good feeling. Knowing that I’ve invested so much time into the sport only to get my butt kicked was painful to accept.”  

The road climbing back to where I was before the pandemic not an easy one. Chon said, “I had to rely heavily on my coaches and required a lot of patience.”  

“Consistency is what makes a great athlete and I’m finally becoming more consistent with my performance,” said Chon. “A big one was when I won the North American Cup in April 2022 that was held in Charlotte [North Carolina]. It was my first gold medal in a while. The gold medal win is a whole different feeling. Right? Something about being at the top just made it a very pivotal moment. Winning that gold also renewed my passion.”  

Chon then went to an international event in Bulgaria, won the gold in teams event and won the bronze in the individual event.  

Chon says his gold in the North Carolina event, his first since the pandemic came from his mindset as much as it came from his practice and preparation.  

“How you perform is always based on what you do before the tournament and how you prepare, but for this [event], I think it was just the mindset that day,” said Chon. “I beat the first and second seed earlier that day. And I honestly think that it was because I walked in with a different mentality. I was recovering the flu and didn’t care so much about what was going to happen and just give my all”  

Chon now looks back on that day as “Kind of a flip-the-switch moment.” Now, he says, he approaches competitions with a greater sense of urgency, “not ‘I want to win’ but, ‘I have to win’”  

Two years ago, Chon competed in his first international tournament. These tournaments came after making team USA for the first time. His success carried over to this year, in which he made Team USA for the second consecutive year.  

International tournaments usually take two full days; one day for individual events and the second day for the team event and require round trips to countries all around the world. The epicenter of fencing is Europe, with most major tournaments occurring there. Chon recalls several 12-hour flights to Bulgaria, Germany, France, Romania, and other foreign nations.  

These tournaments are always a family affair.  

“Every member of the family contributes in their own way to help Taylor perform at his best,” said Taylor’s mother, Lauren Chon. “I try to do most of the packing and planning, and Taylor’s father takes care of the rental car and does all the driving. We’ve gotten very used to this routine, no matter what country we are in.”  

Most recently, the Chons flew to Meylan, France, to witness Taylor’s first gold medal on the international circuit this season. Taylor won Eurosabre 2023 and capped it off with a point that he said he’ll never forget.  

“It was really just instinct,” said Chon. “He went for my head, so I parried, and won the point by going after his.”  

Another positive aspect of fencing internationally is the traveling he gets to do. Some noteworthy places Chon has visited include Rome, Italy, and Bucharest, Romania.  

“There are definitely a couple notable moments,” Taylor’s father remarked. “For me, a notable moment was when he made the USA team last year for the first time. We traveled to four different tournaments, one in Bulgaria, one in France, one in Romania, and another in Germany… For him to be able to perform through those challenges and come out with a gold medal for team USA was a defining moment for me, and for Taylor.” 


At the end of each season, the final international event is held called the World Championships. The significance of this event is that only the top three fencers of each country are allowed to compete. Competing at this level is the most prestigious position to be in as a fencer on the international scale.  

Chon is third in the national rankings and fifth in the international rankings, and by being in this place, he is always targeted by competitors as a worthy opponent with a highly valued spot. This is because only the top three nationally ranked fencers qualify to make the team USA and to compete in the World Championship, where usually more than 40 countries come together to compete.   

“Being number three, everyone wants to take you down because they want to make the world championship team,” said Chon. “So, knowing that, I’m a target to competitor. I have to mentally prepare and defend my position at all time.”  

His success has continued against top competition. He is the Cadet Men’s Sabre North American National Champion, he earned a silver medal at the October North American Cup, he has qualified for the National team twice, and he is an All-American fencer. Chon is also a two-time team USA champion in the Riposta Bucharest World Cup and the Etropolski Sofia World Cup. Chon also finished top eight in both the Division 1 Senior Men’s Saber and the France World Cup.  

“Taylor is now at a point where he is fencing against random Olympians at Division I tournaments and knowing the odds are stacked against him, it is more of a mental battle than a physical one,” said Daniel Chon.  

Taylor credits a pair of coaches for helping him in his climb. Taylor trained under his main Coach, Hyo-Kun Lee of South Korea since he was 11 years old. Coach Lee was an Olympian himself and was the national coach for the South Korean Sabre team until he retired after his team won the bronze medal at the Rio De Janeiro Olympics in 2016. South Korea has consistently ranked top 3 in the world and is currently ranked number one. Andrew Fischl, who fenced through college and earned similar accolades during his competitive years, has worked with Chon for the past year and a half alongside Coach Lee.  

Fischl, who has been coaching for various clubs since 2017, focuses on strategy and how to implement all of the technical skills taught in practice.  

“My first impression of Taylor was that he was very eager to learn,” said Fischl. “He would ask me to fence every single time I was dressed in practice and afterwards he would ask me lots of questions about what I was doing and why it was working.”  

Taylor claims that the success he has seen in this sport has been worth all of the work he has put into it. 

Fencing and Family

Chon says a big part of his success in fencing has been the strong support of his parents Daniel and Lauren Chon.  

“I’ve been blessed with great parents who’ve been very supportive and understanding of my demanding schedule,” said Chon. “I think that’s part of the reason why I’m here today, because of those extra 30 minutes here and there, and they let me train longer when I need to even when unplanned. That is what made the difference.”  

Taylor is also sharing the experience with his brother, 7th grader, Collin Chon who fences too.  

“I love that my brother gets the experience of what it’s like to be on the international level at such an early age,” Chon said. “Eventually, I hope he reaches the level beyond where I am.”  

Chon knows that it has taken a lot of work to get to his level. He also understands the time commitment that he and his family have put into his career.  

Part of having such a large amount of time invested in athletics means that Chon must find a way to balance fencing and his academics.  

“Balancing academics and athletics is the main struggle of any student athlete, right?” said Taylor. “I mean, for me, I want to fence in the NCAA and if my academics is not equally reflective then that will limit choices.”  

Chon has taken on the responsibility of setting the example for his younger brother and has done so by being the best fencer he can be and working as hard as he can.  

“Collin is very competitive, and Taylor was not that way as much,” said Lauren Chon. “He eventually evolved and became competitive. Being younger, Collin wants to be like his older brother and Collin has definitely shown some interest in going down a similar path as Taylor.”  

Taylor has earned many significant awards and accolades but has a long way to go with his fencing career. Taylor has big goals and is going to work as hard as he can to achieve them.  

As Taylor Chon continues to juggle his global fencing success with Upper School classes, he can’t help but think about the big moments ahead as he pursues his goals in the sport. The ultimate goal is the Olympics.  

While that remains off in the distance his international successes have already given him a taste of what it would be like to represent the U.S as an Olympian.  

One of the most special moments in his journey to this point was winning a gold medal at the French world cup and standing on the podium as the Star- Spangled Banner was played.  

I was very proud to represent the United States.” said Chon. “To be able to represent our country on the international stage really struck a chord with me because this country means so much to me. So, standing up there with my right hand on my chest, looking at the flag, while the Star-Spangled Banner is playing, will always be a special moment for me.”