Easy-going. happy. motivated.
I’m a two-time Olympian and two-time Olympic medalist (silver in individual men’s foil in Rio 2016, bronze in team men’s foil in Rio 2016) going to my third Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer. My father immigrated to the United States from Greece at a young age and my mother immigrated from Taiwan for graduate school. My grandfather’s company, King Chong Hong (慶昌行), imported and distributed all kinds of Asian ingredients and utensils to the United States. In fact, when I was growing up, often times I’d see King Chong Hong chopsticks at many of my friends’ houses when I’d go over for meals or to hang out.
As a children of immigrants, growing up in San Francisco was the perfect place for me because it is such a melting pot of different cultures; I never felt out of place or isolated. Not only does San Francisco have a large Chinese and Taiwanese population, many of my relatives on my mom’s side live in the Bay Area. I also went to Chinese American International School from pre-k to eighth grade so I was immersed in Chinese culture and language from a young age.
After graduating Stanford with a degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2017, I have been solely fencing professionally and training for the Tokyo Olympic Games. I want to fence in at least one more Olympic Games after Tokyo, but I have yet to decide whether I want to pursue a professional career in mechanical engineering, coaching at my father’s fencing club, or focus only on training and professional fencing during the next three years. I will leave that decision until after I compete in Tokyo in a few weeks!
How does being Taiwanese/Taiwanese American and/or community ally play a role in your life?
I have always been extremely proud of my Taiwanese heritage and I jump at any opportunity to return to Taiwan, not only to visit family, but to enjoy every amazing thing Taiwan has to offer. The food, atmosphere, and natural beauty that Taiwan has is extremely unique and I really think that there is no other place like Taiwan. Although I have spent most of my trips in Taipei and the surrounding areas because that is where most of my family lives, one of my goals is to explore and fully experience the whole island. On my last trip to Taiwan, I was able to visit Hua Lien and Taroko Gorge for the first time and it was one of the most beautiful places I had been before. One day I want to take a week or two to drive around the whole island and visit all the places I’ve heard about but never been before like Sun Moon Lake, Tai Zhong, Tai Nan, and everywhere in between.
Being a part of the Taiwanese-American community has always been very important to me as I was growing up. Not only is my family Taiwanese-American, many of my friends from middle and lower school are also Taiwanese-American as well as the fencers I grew up with. Many of my father’s fencing students are Taiwanese-American and my father’s first Olympian, Gerek Meinhardt, is also Taiwanese-American and his mother went to elementary and high school with my mom in Taiwan. Because Gerek is four years older than me, watching him compete in the 2008 Olympic Games really inspired me to try and make the 2012 Olympic Games even though I was only 14 in 2008 and 18 in 2012. Tokyo will be our third Olympics together as teammates (we won a bronze together in the team event in Rio 2016) and we will be joined by my sister who just made her first Olympic Team!
If you could teach future generations 1 thing about being Taiwanese/Taiwanese American or Taiwan, what would it be?
I would encourage the next generation of Taiwanese-Americans to really delve into the culture and history of Taiwan. Although I grew up only knowing the Taipei area, as I’ve gotten to visit more of the island, I’ve been further inspired to learn about and visit the rest of the island. Being from such a rich and welcoming culture, we should all be proud of being Taiwanese-American.
What does the future of Taiwanese America look like to you?
I would love to see greater representation of Taiwanese-Americans in all facets of American life, whether as business leaders, in pop-culture and media, or athletics. As I am most in touch with the athletic world, I would love to see more Taiwanese-American representation in American sports. There are already some amazing role models out there like Jeremy Lin and Gerek Meinhardt, but I’d be really happy if I could inspire more Taiwanese-American kids to try to achieve their athletic goals, in fencing or in other sports.
Favorite memory of Taiwan/Taiwanese America?
All my favorite memories of Taiwan involve my family. I always loved going back to the family house in Taipei and having the family business on the ground floor, my grandparents on the next, and several more sets of uncles and aunts on the floors above. It felt like a party all the time because each meal would have so many people around the table.
One of the coolest memories I have involves my grandfather because he used to be a regular at Din Tai Fung when it was still just a carryout shop. When they built their first dine-in restaurant, the top floor was always reserved for the old regulars of the original shop. I will always remember going to Din Tai Fung as a child and even though there was this massive line that went around the block, my grandfather would walk up to the front with my family and the person at the front would always recognize him and say “陳先生，進來進來” (Mr. Chen, come in come in). They would send us to the top floor and just wait for the next table to open up.
Before the Olympics were postponed due to the pandemic, my Ahma (grandmother) wanted to travel to Japan to watch me and my sister compete in person for the first time ever even though she was 93. Unfortunately, she passed away a few weeks ago so she won’t be able to, but I will be holding her in my heart while I compete in Tokyo.
Favorite Taiwanese food?
Boba, scallion egg pancakes, beef noodle soup, dou jiang you tiao, Din Tai Fung xiao long bao