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Olympic Fencer, Kentucky native Lee Kiefer gets to the point

Lee Kiefer was 17 when she had her picture taken for the July 2012 issue of Kentucky Living. She was preparing to compete in the London Olympics as a member of the U.S. Women’s Fencing Team. She would go on to compete in the 2016 Games in Rio and the 2020 Games in Tokyo, where she medaled. Kiefer looks back on her journey with Kentucky Living

KL: You were so young to be in that context. How did you feel during the London Olympics and your later Olympic experiences?   

Kiefer: I loved my time in London. From a fencing perspective, I went out there with nothing to lose. I was surrounded by friends and family—I believe almost 20 people came out to support me. The experience was so new, vivid and positive. Rio 2016 brings back more complicated memories because I wanted a medal so badly. I had taken time off from school to dedicate myself fully to training, and when I didn’t achieve that goal, I was devastated. With very two contrasting Olympic Games under my belt (and the pandemic), I went into Tokyo with a healthy mentality to enjoy the journey … Winning [the gold medal] was primal joy, confusion, and cathartic! 

KL: After you won the gold medal, you could have gone anywhere. Why did you come back to Kentucky?  

Kiefer: Lexington is my home—why would I leave? I have my family, my fencing club and my school. And Kentucky feels breathable—I like to drive my car and see pretty landscapes. I also enjoy bourbon!  

KL: When you appeared in Kentucky Living in 2012, you were dating Gerek Meinhardt, who is now your husband—and now you’re both in medical school at the University of Kentucky.   

Kiefer: My favorite topic. Gerek is also an Olympic fencer and (we both) attended the University of Notre Dame. After college, I started medical school at UK, and he moved to Lexington. Eventually he joined the medical field too. Currently, both of us are on a leave of absence from school to try to qualify for his fifth and my fourth Games in Paris 2024. We are each other’s main training partners and are having the best time on this journey together. 

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