A funny thing happened on the way to becoming a doctor at the University of Kentucky for Lee Kiefer, she got married, survived a Covid pandemic, and now is a decorated Olympic gold medalist.
While she wasn’t a true athlete for the University of Kentucky Lee Kiefer, a Lexington native and a third-year student at UK’s College of Medicine, became the first American to win gold in the individual foil in fencing at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Since she is on campus Big Blue Nation will gladly claim her as one of its own.
Technically not a doctor just yet Kiefer is on her way. She just needed a detour break to Tokyo first.
Kiefer, a three-time Olympian, beat the reigning 2016 Olympic champion Inna Deriglazova of the Russian Olympic Committee 15-13 in the final. Larisa Korobeynikova, also a member of the ROC, claimed the bronze medal. Kiefer finished 10th in the event in Rio and is currently ranked No. 5 in the United States.
A native of Cleveland she graduated from Lexington’s Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School in 2012 and the 27-year old currently is in her third year at the UK College of Medicine. She is also part of the Bluegrass Fencers Club.
It is a family affair in Tokyo as her husband, fellow UK med student Gerek Meinhardt, also competes for Team USA in individual foil. and won bronze in Rio in 2016. He begins his quest for a medal in his qualifying rounds tonight at 8 p.m. ET.
The pair met at Notre Dame where they were teammates and started dating in 2012. They became engaged in 2018 before marrying in 2019.
At the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Kiefer placed 5th after losing to eventual silver medalist Arianna Errigo in the quarter-final, 15–10.
He attended the University of Notre Dame on a full fencing scholarship. He majored in business and finance and was a member of the school’s fencing team from 2009 to 2014. He enrolled in the UK Med School in 2020.
But the Covid pandemic nearly derailed their dreams. Yet they persevered and did whatever they could to make their Olympic dream come true.
Prior they routinely drove from Lexington to Louisville to practice, including in her parent’s basement. They even went so far as to build their own fencing strip with places to practice shut down during a worldwide pandemic.
After winning gold she talked about the journey to get there.
“It started out really exciting, and then after a few months, it was like pulling teeth because no one’s in sight. But we kept motivating each other. We held each other accountable, and eventually, the world started to open back.’’
As the match ended she pulled off her fencing mask stunned at what she realized may have just taken place. As she turned her coach Amgad Khazbak came rushing toward the strip and an emotional embrace and celebration ensued.
You could hear her shout “Oh my God!”
Her husband was in the arena watching, pacing, and doing everything he could all day to help his wife accomplish her dreams.
A true champion she took a moment to reflect on the moment and in some way share it with everyone.
“It’s such an incredible feeling that I share with my coach, I share with my husband, with my family, just everyone that’s been a part of this. I wish I could chop it up in little pieces and distributed it to everyone I love.”
Congratulations to the future Dr. Kiefer right now though it’s Olympic Champion thank you very much.