EXCLUSIVE: How Fil-Am Mitchell Saron Succeeds in Harvard and the 2024 Paris Olympics

EXCLUSIVE: How Fil-Am Mitchell Saron Succeeds in Harvard and the 2024 Paris Olympics


As the fencer prepares to duel his way to the 2024 Paris Olympics, Mitchell Saron talks to MEGA Active on his journey to saber sensation

Everybody can dream of Olympic goals and academic excellence. But the reality is, not everybody can have them. Standing tall as both a Filipino-American and a Harvard scholar, Mitchell Saron is a modern-day knight ready to duel his way at the Paris 2024 Olympics. Wielding a saber more powerful than a lightsaber, he represents Team USA in fencing, where Saron is on guard and ready to go with heritage, honor, and sheer determination to his point. To this, the athlete inspires a new generation of rebels to reach for their own stars.

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The Saber’s Call

“It’s an absolute honor,” Saron shares, reflecting on his unique position. “Representing my Filipino heritage on the global stage fills me with immense pride. I’m grateful to carry forward the unique story of my family and our Filipino roots while also representing the country that raised me. It’s a chance to honor both my history and my future, and I hope to make both communities proud.”

Mitchell Saron: Filipino-American Fencer for 2024 Paris Olympics
Filipino-American fencer Mitchell Saron prepares for the 2024 Paris Olympics

Saron’s interest in fencing began not with a traditional saber, but with a plastic sword. “My inspiration came from the movies of my childhood: Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.” he shares, recalling childhood duels against his family members, armed with BBQ skewers. Recognizing his energy and enthusiasm, his mother decided to channel this into something more structured and took him to a local fencing club. 14 years later, the athlete is still fencing. This time, with a saber in hand and Olympic dreams in sight.

This whimsical start quickly evolved into a disciplined pursuit. “My journey in this sport has instilled a strong sense of discipline and dedication,” he says. “Over time, these qualities have shaped my approach to academics and athletics, pushing me to set high goals and work tirelessly to achieve them. Especially over the past few years, this mindset has been crucial in getting me through Harvard and advancing my fencing career.”

Mitchell Saron: Filipino-American Fencer for 2024 Paris Olympics
The student-athlete reveals time management is a crucial component of excellence

An Olympic Equation

Managing life as a student-athlete at Harvard and an Olympic contender is no easy feat. Saron’s days are a masterclass in time management. “Balancing the demands of being a student-athlete at Harvard and fencing on the international circuit required constant repetition and discipline,” he explains. 

The athlete learned to maintain a strict schedule to juggle his assignments and training at the highest level. This meant giving up social activities and free time to ensure he could excel both on the collegiate and international fencing stages while maintaining academic distinction—an achievement that brought pride not only to himself, but also to his family.

Saron turned a lightsaber into an actual saber after getting inspired by his favorite film, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith; Photography Al Bello 

Innovation Strikes Back

The road to the Olympics is paved with challenges, and the athlete has faced his fair share. He discloses, “Achieving the level of discipline I now have was one of my biggest challenges.” As part of the Olympic training and qualification process, he became hyper-aware of every bite and sip. He had to look at himself in the mirror and play the role of his toughest critic. “Redefining my mindset and lifestyle, and taking full ownership, was a significant challenge.”

“Even if you don’t initially feel like you belong, remember that it’s your decision to belong—not someone else’s.”

Mitchell Saron on diversity in sports

The worst thing that can happen to an athlete during an Olympic qualifying year is to get hurt. Like almost all great athletes or, at least, sports drama characters in a foil for melodrama, Saron has experience in this storyline. “The thumb injury on my fencing hand in November was also a major setback. As you can imagine, you really need your thumb to handle a saber.” After consulting with doctors and reviewing MRIs, the athlete was faced with frustrating news: Due to the risk of permanent damage, he was advised against fencing. 

Mitchell Saron: Filipino-American Fencer for 2024 Paris Olympics
The athlete overcomes challenges by practicing new methods

But Saron loves an endeavor, laughing with perseverance instead of surrendering to limitations. “My coach and I developed a technique where I held my saber like a tennis racket.” While challenging, this unconventional adjustment did the trick as it forced him to sharpen his footwork and speed. What seemed like a setback turned out to be a real touché in disguise. “The adversity gave me a new perspective on growth during this journey.”

Blades, Brains, and Brotherhood

The Paris 2024 Olympics looms closer, and Saron’s training becomes a full-on epic quest: Fencing, weightlifting, and nutrition with mental conditioning. His routine includes meditation, journaling, and visualization, paired with a strict diet and sleep schedule. For recovery, he dives into ice baths, basks in red light therapy, and sweats it out in saunas—because even knights need their spa days. “Balancing all these aspects is essential to ensure I’m at my best both physically and mentally for the Olympics.”

Saron’s mindset is a force to deal with; Photography Al Bello 

The mental game, he believes, is what truly sets champions apart. “Mindset is often what separates people at the top of any sport. Everyone at the elite level is a world-class physical athlete, but the mental game is what separates the medaling champions,” he asserts.

“Camaraderie with my teammates is also incredibly important.” On the men’s saber team, Saron shares a special connection with his teammates—they’re practically a tight-knit squad of sword-swinging scholars. As alumni or incoming students of Harvard, they’ve formed a bond stronger than tempered steel, always ready to parry life’s challenges together with a witty riposte and a Harvard-worthy quip.

Fencing the Future

For Saron, diversity in sports is not just about representation; it’s about inspiration. “Growing up, I idolized many fencers, some of whom I am now honored to call my teammates. But there were few Filipino-American role models,” he shares. “Now, I hope to be that role model for the next generation, alongside others like Lee Kiefer, who has also been a role model for me. It’s important to show that people from all backgrounds can achieve greatness in sports. Even if you don’t initially feel like you belong, remember that it’s your decision to belong, not someone else’s. What truly matters is your passion and your willingness to put in the work.”

Mitchell Saron: Filipino-American Fencer for 2024 Paris Olympics
The athlete hopes to be a role model for the next generation

To aspiring athletes, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds, the athlete offers sage advice: “If you feel like you belong somewhere, that’s where you belong. Don’t let others define your path. Stay committed to your goals, believe in yourself, and build relationships with friends and family who believe in you, too.”

Saron envisions inspiring future generations by sharing practical insights and strategies. “One of my biggest goals is to make health cool for the next generation. I’ve found that prioritizing it and wellness has been crucial to my success, and I want to show how integral it is to achieving your goals and building a happy life,” he says. “By bringing others along on my journey, including the challenges and setbacks, I hope to provide a roadmap for others to follow.”

Mitchell Saron: Filipino-American Fencer for 2024 Paris Olympics
Mitchell Saron aims to encourage and uplift underrepresented athletes

As the athlete prepares to fence his way to success in Paris, as well as into the hearts and minds of ambitious athletes, he carries the hopes of not just two nations, but countless hopefuls who see in him a mirror image of their own dreams. Perhaps, Mitchell Saron is Han Solo.

Photos courtesy of MITCHELL SARON

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