Eli Dershwitz is preparing to embark on his second trip to the Olympics. Though he did not win any medals at the Rio Games in 2016, the 25-year-old native of Massachusetts has worked tirelessly to return to the Olympics and once again compete for gold. Dershwitz is currently ranked the No. 2 fencer for men's sabre in the world.
As part of our preparation for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, NBC Olympics sent questionnaires to a wide range of athletes to learn more about their lives on and off the field of play.
Here’s some of what we found out about Eli Dershwitz:
Tell us about your family.
Mom and Dad, Renee and Mark Dershwitz, have been huge supporters of my sport and my dreams for as long as I can remember, and I can never thank them enough for giving me the opportunity to pursue my passion. My twin sister Sally has always been by my side to support me through everything in life, and my older brother Phil, who I followed in the sport of fencing, pushed me to become a better athlete and a better person throughout my entire childhood, and I owe so much of my success to all the support I have received from my family.
Who do you live with?
After graduating from Harvard in the Spring of 2019, I moved back to my hometown with my family so I could continue to train full-time at my club and with my personal coach (Zoran Tulum, who is also the U.S. National coach) with whom I have worked with for my entire life.
Parent influence on athletic career?
Extremely influential. They provided me with all the resources and support I needed to continue to train, travel, compete and grow as an athlete and as a person throughout my entire athletic career.
Typical training day?
I train between five and seven hours per day, six days a week, and aim to get between eight and nine hours of sleep every night on top of a one to two-hour nap between training sessions every day.
What's the most grueling workout you've ever done?
Some of the leg day workouts my trainer has come up with over the years have had me crawling from the gym floor into the locker rooms to the sauna and showers.
Earliest memory of fencing?
As a small kid at age 7, before my coach would let me join the beginner fencing classes because I was too young, I used to drive with my mom to pick up my brother from practice as he fenced before me, and I would watch with amazement as I saw how fun and athletic the sport of fencing looked. I decided to dedicate a large part of my life to the sport I love because I am a permanent student of the game; I love how there is no perfect strategy, and no matter how good your ideas are during a match, there is always something your opponent can do to counteract what you have done, making the sport a mix of physical and mental battles, leading to my coach calling the sport "physical chess" for most of my life.
Specific breakthrough moment?
Winning the U20 World Championships in 2015 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, the first ever world title in my event in U.S. history, in a nation where I have relatives buried, meant the world to me and propelled me to take a full year off from college as I attempted to qualify for the 2016 Rio Games.
Big obstacle that you've overcome?
Getting myself back into the right mindset for training and competitions after a terrible performance at a previous competition is something every athlete struggles with, and is an obstacle that I have been continuously trying to overcome throughout my career.
Play any other sports?
Growing up, I played basketball, soccer, tennis, lacrosse and baseball. As I attempted to become a better overall athlete, playing other sports was instrumental.
Extremely. Several lucky charms I have kept in my fencing bag for countless years, including a special bracelet my sister gave me when I was a kid for good luck, a bottle of hot sauce given to me by kids I was coaching at my club back in the day since I put hot sauce on all my food, and a small glass turtle my coach gave me several years back as they are one of my favorite animals.
Earliest memory of watching the Olympics?
My earliest memory of watching the Olympics would probably be watching Mariel Zagunis, a personal hero of mine, win the first-ever Olympic Gold medal in her sport as the introduction of Women's Saber to the Olympics at the Athens Games in 2004. I never even dreamed about making it to that stage when I was that young.
Advice you'd give a young fencer?
Have fun. Don't think about the future, or college, or medals. As a young kid in the sport, the most important thing is to enjoy what you are doing. If you burn out and lose your love for the sport at a young age, it is almost impossible to make it to the next level when you get older.