Lee Kiefer has won America’s third ever gold fencing medal in Tokyo after beating defending champion Inna Deriglazova of Russia in the women’s foil final.
The 27-year-old medical student defeated the world number one 15-13 in a tense battle.
It was a close affair with both women who were close to taking gold in the final stages of the women’s foil and were at 12-12 before the world’s number five Kiefer closed the match 15-13.
Kiefer ripped off her mask after the last point and shouted “Oh my God!”
With that win, Kiefer became the first American woman to win an Olympic medal in individual foil.
She placed fifth at the 2012 London Games and 10th at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Mariel Zagunis is the only other American fencer to have earned gold, winning the saber events at the 2004 and 2008 Games.
“What just happened?” she asked, in shock, before congratulating her coach, according to… USA today. “What just happened?”
“I was so confused,” she later said. ‘My coach was in my arms like a sob. I swallowed it, but was very confused.’
Lee Kiefer screamed as she took off her helmet after winning the women’s individual qualifier at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics
Kiefer, 27, earned the gold medal in Sunday’s event
After her victory, she paraded through the stadium with an American flag
Kiefer’s road to her gold medal started with a 15-4 win over Singapore’s Amita Berthier, followed by a thrilling 15-13 game against Canadian Eleanor Harvey.
A 15-11 quarterfinal win over Japan’s Yuka Ueno and the 15-6 decision against Russian Olympic Committee’s Larisa Korobeynikova led to the gold medal match.
Before her Victory Day, she tweeted at Team USA, “You know us as athletes. We are so much more. We are artists, activists, dreamers and doers. And we are unstoppable.’
Her husband Gerek Meinhardt is also an Olympic medalist and claimed bronze in men’s team foil at the 2016 Rio Games. He will compete in the Tokyo Games, the world’s number two, on Monday, but he was willing to give up some of the spotlight on Sunday to focus on his wife, whom he met while on the fencing team at Notre Dame.
“It was unbelievable,” Meinhardt told USA Today. “I know how hard she works every day, how much she wants it, how important fencing is in our lives.”
She seemed cheering when she won, holding her helmet and smiling
Kiefer and American coach Amgad Khazbak celebrate after she wins gold
She embraced those who supported her on her way
The love for fencing does not end in her family.
Her siblings Alexandra and Axel have also competed in the sport at an international level and father Steve led the fencing team at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
After failing to win an Olympic medal in 2012 and 2016, she nearly gave up trying to win an Olympic prize, but the following year she became the first American woman to earn the No. 1 spot in foil fencing. — which furthered her screen career.
But while waiting for her chance to shine, she enrolled in medical school at the University of Kentucky and spent her spare time at a fencing club in Louisville, about an hour and a half away.
The pandemic made it more difficult, but she and Meinhardt made a fencing strip in her parents’ basement, where they trained together all year.
“We were just trying to keep a baseline so we didn’t forget how to pull out and our point control didn’t get too bad,” she said.
In March, Kiefer withdrew from medical school to focus on preparing for the Tokyo Games.
She said she plans to resume her studies next year.
Kiefer, left, took on Inna Deriglazova, from Russia, in the foil competition
It was a close match, with the women 12-12 before Kiefer clenched the gold
She defeated Deriglazonva 15-13 in the league
She has been friends with her US national teammates Nzingha Prescod and Nicole Ross since they were children.
When the trio won women’s foil gold at the 2018 World Championships in Wuxi, China, it was the eighth senior world championships the three competed in together.
“In the beginning we were still a little young and we just kind of went through the hallway.
“We all developed these crazy dreams along the way to win the Olympics together. It would mean everything to go to Tokyo with these girls just because we worked so hard as individuals and as a team.
“We really know each other’s struggles and hopes and dreams.”
Kiefer received her gold medal on the podium at the medal ceremony
Kiefer, center, posed with silver medalist Inna Deriglazova and Larisa Korobeinikova, both of the Russian Olympic team
Both her parents are doctors. Her mother Teresa immigrated from the Philippines to the United States of America as a child while her father Steve led Duke’s fencing team
“Fences and medicine is all I’ve known since birth. Before my sister went to college, we all went to every practice together.
“Not only was it a lot of time to bond, but we all made each other better through constant practice. We are all 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.’
Kiefer said she felt she was the best in the world after getting the gold medal
Lee said today she felt like she was one of the best in the world after getting gold
“I had so much fun and to come out here and feel good about your fencing is really what all the athletes try to do and hope you have a medal at the end,” she said.
‘I have everything, I am on top of the world. This is the best day.
“Before I left my father wrote me a card and he said we’ve been on this trip… We tried our best and our pot of gold has been filled all the time as we went along, and just being here it is glaze on top.
“I just feel so much love and I have so much to give back to everyone. When I was younger I always thought they were sacrifices, but the hours in training and things we do are just because we like it and it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice.
‘I still can’t believe it. I was so calm, and now I’m calm and confused. I want to be ready for my husband’s event tomorrow and our team event.
When asked if she would celebrate with her husband, she said she “just wanted to go to bed, except I drank so much caffeine today that I probably won’t go to bed.”