Lee Kiefer is preparing to make her third appearance at the Olympics this summer. The 26-year-old fencer specializes in foil and in 2017 became the first U.S. female foil fencer to earn the No. 1 world ranking. Now, Kiefer is focused on becoming the first U.S. woman to win a gold medal in individual foil competition in Tokyo.
As part of our preparation for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, NBC Olympics sent questionnaires to a wide range of athletes to learn more about their lives on and off the field of play.
Here’s some of what we found out about Lee Kiefer:
Tell us about your family.
I come from a fencing family. My dad fenced in college, and I have an older sister and younger brother who I trained with most of my life. I got married this past September to a fencer who is also trying to qualify for Tokyo 2020 (Gerek Meinhardt).
Where does your family come from?
My mom moved from the Philippines when she was 10 years old and my dad is from Northern Kentucky.
Who do you live with?
I live with my husband in Lexington. We are five minutes away from the fencing club and 10 minutes away from the airport, which fits our lifestyle perfectly.
How has your hometown (Lexington) shaped who you are today?
I was able to get a great education that propelled me towards my goals of making Olympic teams, going to college and pursuing a degree in medicine.
What's your favorite workout?
My favorite thing to do for exercise is just fence. I love long bouts against tough training partners where we can be creative.
What's the most grueling workout you've ever done?
The most grueling workout I had was in college. During my senior year, the fencing team hired Navy Seals to whip our 50-person team into mental shape. For two days, they had us endlessly sprinting across soccer fields and pools and planking while yelling at us.
Earliest memory of fencing?
I saw my dad fence at a local competition when I was 6. He fenced in college and decided to get back into the sport. My siblings and I thought the sport was strange and interesting-appearing, so my dad started teaching us the basics in our empty dining room and taking us to a club twice a week that was 1.5 hours away from where we lived.
It started as a family activity, which we enjoyed and dreaded based on the day, and developed into something that we were good at, gave us focus, helped us make friends and allowed us to see new places.
Earliest memory of watching the Olympics?
I actually remember pulling out my computer in the middle of the night and watching my now-husband fence in Beijing 2008 (when I was 14). I did not know him at the time nor did I even contemplate being an Olympian one day.
What would you change about fencing?
I wish fencing was more known and accessible. It is not very popular in the media although it has made strides in the past 10 years. It is also considered a niche sport because there are not clubs everywhere and it is generally expensive to get involved.
Do you have any pets?
Tarantula named Caetano. She is a Brazilian salmon pink bird-eating tarantula. She is a beautiful yet low maintenance pet who brings me joy.
Do you collect anything?
Postcards. I get them for myself and my friends have gotten them for me from their travels since I was 13. I have probably over 200 postcards in my room.
What would you be doing if not an athlete?
If I wasn't an athlete, I would like to have other skills in leather and metal crafting.
Greatest influence within or outside fencing?
My dad is my biggest inspiration. He works for all he has and strives to challenge himself. He is a neurosurgeon by day and then takes care of our land/the kids when he isn't at his day job. My sense of self-expectation and obligation to be better comes from him.
Advice you'd give a young fencer?
Instead of focusing on winning in practice, try new actions and work on diversifying your skills.