Lee Kiefer wins Olympic gold in fencing while in med school

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Lee Kiefer became the first American to win an Olympic gold in individual foil after winning in Tokyo on Sunday. And the 27-year-old from Kentucky did it all while still in medical school.

“I still don’t feel like it’s real,” she told “TODAY” after her victory. “My happiness comes from the joy of my coach and my family at this point.”

Kiefer, who is a Filipino American and the first Asian American woman to win gold in fencing, previously competed in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016 and the London Olympics in 2012 without winning any medal neither to one nor to the other. But after a close game against Russian competitor and 2016 gold winner Inna Deriglazova on Sunday, Kiefer came out on top with a 15-13 victory. His victory was the third gold medal for the United States

Fencing is a family sport for Kiefer – his siblings and father are athletes who have all performed to some extent. Her husband, Gerek Meinhardt, is a three-time Olympic fencer who won bronze in team foil at the Rio Games.

“In fact, I remember taking out my computer in the middle of the night and looking at my husband’s fence in Beijing in 2008 [when I was 14]Kiefer wrote in an NBC Sports quiz. “I didn’t know him at the time and I didn’t even consider being an Olympian one day.”

During her interview with “TODAY,” she turned to Meinhardt, who stood off camera, and described how much that moment meant to them after only training during the pandemic.

“We chipped away at that for a decade,” Kiefer said. “It’s our dream to be here together.

Ranking fifth in London and 10th in Rio, Kiefer told NBC News in 2016 that the likelihood of her returning to the Olympics in 2020 was slim. Instead, she wanted to focus on medical school and her medical career. Although she enrolled in the University of Kentucky’s medical school, she said the break from competition helped her build the confidence that led her to the gold medal.

“I was like, ‘What happened? “I didn’t do fencing at the Olympics like that, and now I have all this confidence and a new love for fencing,” she said on a University of Kentucky podcast in 2019.

Her victory made her the second woman in U.S. history to win a gold medal in fencing.


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