FILIPINA American Lee Kiefer made history at the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday, July 25 as she became the first American to win a gold medal in individual foil.
The 27-year-old Kiefer, who represents the United States, defeated defending champion Inna Deriglazova of Russia 15-13 in the women’s foil final held at the Makuhari Messe Hall in Japan.
Deriglazova was a favorite to win the gold medal, having been ranked No. 1 and taken part in two previous Olympic Games, according to Reuters.
— #TokyoOlympics (@NBCOlympics) July 25, 2021
This is the Fil-Am fencer’s first-ever gold medal, and the third gold for the U.S. women’s fencing team. (Mariel Zagunis won in saber at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.)
“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,” Kiefer said after her win. “I wish I could chop it up in little pieces and distribute it to everyone I love.”
Words can’t describe how bad she wanted this, how hard she worked, or how proud of her I am.
— Gerek Meinhardt (@GerekMeinhardt) July 25, 2021
After winning, Kiefer ripped off her mask and joyfully screamed, “Oh my God! What just happened?” She hugged her coach, before rushing to the stands to hug her husband, fellow U.S. fencer and Olympic bronze medalist Gerek Meinhardt.
“My wife just made my #Olympics dream complete,” Meinhardt wrote on Twitter with a photo of the couple and Kiefer’s gold medal.
He added, “Words can’t describe how bad she wanted this, how hard she worked, or how proud of her I am. Thank you ALL for the incredible words of support. We felt each one of them. @TeamUSA @USAFencing HISTORY!!!”
A four-time NCAA champion at Notre Dame, she previously competed in two Olympic Games, placing fifth at the 2012 London Games, and 10th at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
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The daughter of two doctors, Kiefer entered medical school at the University of Kentucky, but withdrew to prepare for the Olympics by training on a fencing strip in her parents’ basement. She plans to continue her studies in the coming spring.
Her mother Teresa, who traces her roots to Tagum City in Davao, Philippines, immigrated to the U.S. as a child. Kiefer visited the Philippines with her mother and father Steve when she was 10, according to an article by Spin.PH in 2016.
She comes from a family of fencers — her father was the captain of the fencing team at Duke; older sister Alexandra won the 2011 NCAA championship in foil fencing at Harvard; and brother Axel was runner-up in 2011 in foil fencing for Notre Dame, USA Today reported.
Kiefer joins two other American athletes who made history with the country’s first gold medals in their respective sports over the weekend: Will Shaner for men’s 10-meter air rifle and Anastasija Zolotic for women’s taekwondo.
“To come out here and to feel good about your fencing is what all the athletes strive to do and hope you have a medal at the end, so I have everything,” Kiefer said.