Going for Gold
Tim Morehouse '00 excels in the Olympics and civil service
Published: Monday, August 27, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 12:08
As a high-school freshman, Tim Morehouse ’00 faced a decision between gym class and competitive fencing. He chose to join the saber squad on the Riverdale Country School fencing team. The rest is history.
Morehouse earned three All-American honors during his Brandeis career, competed in two Olympics and accrued numerous professional awards, eventually rising to the distinction as the United States’ No. 1 saber.
He set out on another important endeavor earlier this summer at the London Olympics, hoping that his third try to win a gold medal would be the charm.
Morehouse, ranked No. 20, competed in both individual and team play at the Games, including a historic top-8 finish in the solo competition, the first American saber ever to accomplish such a feat. He notched upsets over No. 11 Veniamin Reshetnikov of Russia and No. 5 Dimitri Lapkes of Bulgaria before eventually falling in a 15-9 quarterfinal defeat to Italian saber Diego Occhiuzzi.
Morehouse noted that his rigorous and consistent training regimen over the past four years was a key factor in his success in London.
"The excitement level is a little higher [in training]," he said. "You ramp things up. There is more physical competition in the impending months before the Games. It’s not like cramming for a final exam; there is a lot of preparation that has to go into such a monumental event."
While he ultimately failed to win a medal in either competition, Morehouse treasured the enriching experience of competing in the Olympics, and noted his ability to succeed in such a high profile tournament.
"I certainly wanted to win a medal, but it’s so rewarding to just be able to compete at the Olympics," said Morehouse. "I was particularly proud to excel under the pressure and turn in one of the best individual performances in our nation’s history."
The Olympic experience is nothing new for Morehouse. He served as an alternate in the 2004 Athens Games and was a key contributor to the US team’s silver-medal finish in Beijing in 2008.
Even so, while Morehouse stated that he felt more at ease in his third Olympics, he was still awed by the high energy level and intense nature of competition.
"I was definitely able to handle London a little better given my experience," he stated. "There was just such an amazing spirit and feeling though. London really defined what the Olympics are all about: good-spirited competitiveness."
He cited, however, that his most memorable moment from the Games occurred away from the fencing mats.
Morehouse, who was named a voter in the election to appoint a flag-bearer for the American procession in the Opening Ceremony, had the opportunity to make history. He had the chance to break a gender barrier for a deserving American athlete and he did.
Morehouse nominated saber Mariel Zagunis to serve as the first American female to hoist the nation’s flag in the Opening Ceremony.
After a election in which the voting panel was torn between Zagunis and sprinter Bryshon Nellum who was shot in the leg in 2008 and underwent three surgeries in order to compete in London, Zagunis was elected to the post.
While Nellum was later named as the flag bearer for the Closing Ceremony, Morehouse was the first to break the news to Zagunis and had the privilege to walk right behind her in the procession, basking in the dazzling display.
"It was just such an honor to be a part of history," said Morehouse. "She absolutely deserved it, and it’ll always be one of my proudest moments."
Despite his professional success in London, Morehouse’s accomplishments would not have been possible without the support and tutelage of coach Bill Shipman.
After all, Shipman was the one college coach that took a risk on Morehouse by recruiting him to the Judges squad.
"I could not have done any of this without having the opportunity to compete at Brandeis," Morehouse noted.
"Shipman was the one coach to identify me in high school and he was such an encouraging presence, always pushing me to reach for higher goals. With his guidance and great teammates, I definitely had a great foundation for the future."
Along with his fencing exploits, Morehouse is excited for the opportunity to continue his other career as an engaged community activist. He was honored on August 17 at the White House as a "Champion of Change" for his accomplished work at AmeriCorps, where he was one of 12 honorees to utilize his national service experience and career influence to make an impact as a leader in his community.
After graduating from Brandeis with a major in History and earning of a master’s education from Pace University, Morehouse has taught in elementary-level classrooms and led community efforts in high-risk neighborhoods surrounding New York City.
He is also thrilled to start work on launching his new foundation: Fencing in the Schools.
"I am very excited about the prospects of my foundation to increase the visibility of fencing, establish it as a consistent part of [physical education] curriculums and use it as a tool to encourage physical fitness for young children," he said.
When asked if he was thinking about competing at Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympics, Morehouse stated that he wanted to sit back and reflect on what lies ahead.
"You never rule anything out, but there are a lot of different opportunities out there, and I want to find what I’m passionate about," he said.
One thing is for sure: His story is far from over.