BROOKLYN - Keeth Smart is already the first American to be ranked the best fencer in the world. On Thursday, he leaves to China for his third Olympic Games.

"I'm really proud just to have been a kid from Brooklyn," says Smart, who is originally from Flatbush. Those who follow the sport think he has a good chance to bring home a medal.

"He's very strong mentally and I believe this is the huge difference between him and others," says Yury Gelman, coach of the American fencing team.

While Flatbush and fencing may seem like an unlikely combination, Smart says the idea belonged to his dad.

"I was the normal kid in Flatbush, Brooklyn," he says. "I played basketball and essentially my dad said, 'You're not as good as the other guys you play with. You should give fencing a shot.' "

Smart says this will be his last Olympics. He plans to begin business school in the fall.