Miles Chamley-Watson is a British-born American fencer. He is currently starring in a new Nike Yoga campaign and is backed by mega-brand Red Bull. Miles made his way to the United States at 9-years-old and started fencing at age 13. He later earned a full-ride fencing scholarship to Penn State University where he was a four-time All American. He dominated the international fencing scene and earned a spot at the 2012 London Olympics, where he took fourth place. In 2013, he became the first American to win an individual Senior World Championship, at just 23, then he won the bronze medal with his team at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Before publishing this story, the novel coronavirus had made a real global impact on all our lives including the cancellation of the 2020 Summer Olympics where Chamley-Watson had intended to compete on the world stage. It’s no secret the “Fencer” as we know him on Instagram isn’t your typical swashbuckling avatar for the sword-wielding sport. He’s 6′ 4″, has bleach blonde hair and enough tattoos to compete with the likes of Dennis Rodman. He walked onto the set in a bright lemon yellow Nike windbreaker and plaid pants just arriving from LAX. He’s laid back and extremely human, so you could say his career and even Miles himself is larger than life, but in person, he feels more like a long-lost friend from college who just wants to hang out and catch-up.
MM: Due to the Pandemic; we see sports twitter handles asking questions like what is the best stadium you have ever been to, or to rank top 5QB’s of all time. Sports have been put on pause. It is a strange time. As an athlete, living in this new normal what do you crave right now as it pertains to sports and why?
MC: For me seeing my family is number one. Being with my coach and being free and being at training, I miss that the most just being in that mental spot and ready to compete. I can workout anywhere I go, but I can’t fence without my coach and sparring partners. I am going to do my best to set up targets here in Beverly Hills where I am right now. I am going to try my best to stay sharp so when that time comes I want to be ready.
MM: I know we talked about it on set. The Olympics have been moved to 2021, how are you handling this change to the schedule?
MC: At first it was a little uneasy. I thought when am I going to practice, when am I going to do this, but once I took deep breaths and said ‘ok, Miles you cannot control this, all you can do is stay inside — a burden lifted off my shoulders.
A quote I like is ‘the best athletes have the shortest memory.’ That was something Kobe Bryant told me, and that is a quote I will never ever forget.
MM: A lot of people are on Instagram live showing us workouts at home, how does “@Fencer” the athlete workout from Home right now? Any tips?
MC: We set up a circuit in our backyard here in LA; including TRX, Abs, plyometrics, ropes, kettlebells, medicine balls, so we have everything we need to be in shape. The hardest part is the diet.
MM: We will talk more fencing in a moment — Everyone is still adjusting to staying at home. What is the best thing you have been up to — to stay busy right now?
MC: I started writing a couple of books. I am working on my business stuff on how I can monetize and capitalize on being home right now.
MM: What has been the one thing you miss in our “new normal”?
MC: I am very good at being in a room with someone. The relationships are what I miss, like having coffee with someone just, the human contact, and enjoying their energy.
MM: Let’s switch gears shall we; you have talked a lot about not being a stereotypical fencer. Anyone that sees you or meets you can immediately see the blonde hair, the tall muscular frame, and the collection of tattoos. What is one thing about you that breaks the mold — that isn’t visual (maybe something a person would learn about you over tea or coffee)?
MC: I might look like I am a basketball player, but I’m not. I am in a sport where nobody looks like me and I am bringing in a new audience. I’m fearless. I’m someone who is breaking ground. I think you get that sense with me one on one when you feel the energy. I am pretty funny, too. I am someone who takes risks and isn’t afraid to make a mistake. I don’t consider myself just a fencer or a model, or businessman. I want to do everything I can. I have my business and endorsements, but I also have books I want to write, clubs I want to open.
MM: Is there an athlete blueprint or north star you follow?
MC: My best friend Lewis Hamilton, I always look up to him. He is definitely somebody who has done such a good job with his career. Michael Strahan is a good friend of mine, so I like to take all those components and get what I can from each of them. I think you can learn from anybody.
MM: Hypothetical; We are weeks away from 2021, Summer Games, Times Square has a huge black & white image of you standing in your gear, mask in hand. There is one word overlayed on the AD, it describes you in one word, what is that word?
MM: Where are you training?
Training must be a 6-8 hour day when you are preparing to compete. Tell us 3 places you draw inspiration from?
MC: I train at Mount Sinai, Chelsea Piers, and Nike private gym.
I am inspired by not being normal. Anything that is not conventional. Little kids inspire me, they are so pure and they live with no hesitation. My coach is one. Music is the first thing I do when I wake up. I have a special soundtrack for the morning. During the day I have hype music before competitions and my friends. I get so inspired by my friends. They push me.
MM: You are a Londoner and a New Yorker? What have you adopted most as an American in New York?
MC: I have adopted the walking lifestyle of a New Yorker and the energy of a New Yorker. You can’t really put a word on it. The energy is amazing.
MM: What is the most British thing about you still today?
MC: I miss the pubs and a pint of beer. I miss a lot, my friends and family. I think British people are quiet and crazy. We are also very approachable and social.
MM: Let’s talk fashion: Can you tell us how you developed your sense of style?
MC: As a little kid I always liked clothes. I used to steal my sister’s dresses and not care. I just liked what feels good. That is the great part of fashion, you just wear what feels good. I would mix and match at a younger age. My mom was a model, so that probably helped. When I started to make more money I could buy what I wanted and it just trickled down. Now I am in the fashion world. It all evolved naturally.
MM: Speaking of style, the tattoos are def a huge part of your look. Have you thought of any new ones you want to get following this quarantine: and can you give us a hint of what it might be?
MC: Yeah I want to get my whole leg done, from my thigh to my ankle. I want to get some portraits of people and a couple of animals. I have wanted to get Kobe for a while since before the tragic incident. I was lucky to meet him. I love wolves and polar bears I want to get them on my thigh. I have a couple of words that inspire me and a bunch of stuff that is in my book. No tattoo is ever random on my body. I have three tattoo artists; Brad Stevens who did my sleeves, Kevin Jang who did my back and chest and Shawn Harder who has done my portrait tattoos.
MM: What shows, movies or series are you binging right now?
MC: I just started re-watching Suits. Now we are watching Ozarks season 3, we might watch Sons of Anarchy again too.
MM: Favorite album or artist to work out to?
MC: Dave, a London rapper.
MM: The one place in the world you haven’t been you would like to travel to this year?
MM: Words to live by?
MC: Create a legacy not a moment.
Never a loss. Always a lesson.
PHOTOGRAPHER Vincent Dillio
ART DIRECTOR Danika Underhill
STYLIST Karen Schijman, Honey Artists
GROOMER Gregg Hubbard, B&A
STYLIST ASSISTANT Richard Sifuentes
EDITOR Seth Travis
Editor’s Note: Miles Chamley-Watson is spending his quarantine with close friends in Beverly Hills, California, and calls New York City home. We were very fortunate to produce this shoot with Miles just weeks before COVID-19 shut everything down in New York and all across America and the world. I want to thank Miles, IMG, and everyone on the production team who made this story possible.