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First U.S. individual foil fencing gold medal won by Notre Dame grad

J-P Mauro - published on 07/28/21

Lee Kiefer's historic gold medal is a testament to the value of a strong and supportive family.

An alumna of Indiana’s University of Notre Dame has become the first U.S. competitor ever to medal in individual foil fencing. Lee Kiefer, 27, took home the gold medal after overcoming the reigning champ Inna Deriglazova of Russia 15-13.

This was Kiefer’s third appearance in the summer games and first time winning a medal. That it was the first-place award only cements her place in American fencing history. Previously, Kiefer held the distinctions of being a 4-time NCAA champion and a 10-time Pan American champion.

The University of Notre Dame was quick to congratulate its Olympian alum. In a tweet sent by The Fighting Irish account, a Twitter feed that supports university athletes, they wrote: 

While the event was a huge moment for Kiefer, it was also a big deal for Notre Dame. According to Crux Now, eight members of the U.S. fencing team have ties to the university. This lineup included 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist Mariel Zagunis. 

A fencing family

While Lee has not specifically discussed her faith, her victory has a lot to say about the role of family in success. Kiefer’s fencing roots go back a full generation, as she and her sister and brother were introduced to the sport by their father.

According to her bio on the International Fencing Federation website, Kiefer’s father was a fencer who had competed in his youth. He put aside his foil for over a decade only to pick it up again once he had kids. Lee, her sister Alex, and her brother Axel quickly became enraptured with the sport after watching him compete again. 

All three of the Lee siblings were educated and trained as fencers at the University of Notre Dame. Today, Lee and Axel are representing the United States at the Tokyo Olympics. While Lee has already taken home the gold, Axel’s competition is to come on August 1. 

For Lee, however, fencing isn’t the only thing she got from her parents. Both her parents are doctors and have inspired Lee to follow suit. Lee is currently studying medicine as a graduate student at the University of Kentucky. Of her family, she wrote in the bio:

“Fencing and medicine is all I have ever known since I was born. Before my sister went to college, we all went to every single practice together. It wasn’t only a lot of bonding time but we all made each other better through constant practice.”

She added, “All of us are very competitive, which meant there was a lot of fighting when we were younger. But it was a lot of fun, and now we have that experience together as adults.”

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