How fencing helped one homeless teen through his darkest days

David Deschanel (right) practices his skills against opponent Sadiki Joseph
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Story and photos by Shahein Fitzpatrick

Memories of being homeless for several months with just the clothing on his back and a bag containing his fencing equipment flood Deschanel David’s head.

Today the 22-year-old is a talented athlete with hopes of eventually becoming the Caribbean’s first fencing Olympian to win a gold medal. 

After practicing day and night to master his art – while dealing with personal issues including homelessness and depression – fencing has become second nature to him.

“I started fencing in high school, which was in 2014 when I was in fourth form. I was doing track and field at the time, and I soon got tired of it since my love had faded. 

“Guys began to outperform me, and I disliked not being the greatest. I recall praying to the Lord one night, asking him to provide me with something else to do, and I told him to send me exactly what he had in mind for me,” David explained.

Just a few months later, David Hart, an ex-fencer and coach with over 50 years’ experience, offered youths at Princess Margaret Secondary School the opportunity to train with him. 

“I immediately knew that fencing was the sport for me. Many hurdles have come my way since the first day I picked up my fencing blade, and I haven’t dropped it since because fencing has helped me through many storms,” the youngster remarked.

“I became homeless around two years after graduating from high school due to events beyond my control,” he said. 

 “I stayed in around seven different abandoned buildings during that time. I recall coming home from fencing one Saturday and seeing my clothes outside of one of the locations. 

“Since there were so many people congregating there, the homeowner became irritated and informed me, ‘tonight is the last time you’ll be staying here because there are too many people here’.

“She hauled my belongings outside, and only God’s grace rescued me. An African man who was residing there begged her to retain me for a few days longer.”

Throughout it all, the one thing David did was practice the sport using equipment given to him by kind benefactors. 

“I would get up in the morning, put on my fencing gear, and train, train, train. I’d simply fence by myself for hours and hours on end.”

David, who now lives in Valley Road, disclosed with sadness in his voice, “This was my daily routine.” 

Fencing has continued to be a source of escape and optimism for him through all of his obstacles. 

“And God used it to reveal to me who I am as a person. Even though things could be better, I have to admit that I’m in a better place now. 

“I’ve developed a heart for the vulnerable as a result of my difficult teenage years. However, for the time being, my emphasis is solely on fencing; I must and will be an Olympic champion, and once I achieve my ambitions, I will follow the blueprint that God has shown me,” David added.

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