Lee Kiefer: A Filipina American Trailblazer on the Road to Olympic Glory


by Dylan Bothamley

Lee Kiefer’s name has become synonymous with American fencing and with good reason. The Filipina American has had an astounding career and will look to defend her Olympic title at the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, to a Filipina mother Teresa, and an American father Steve, her family played a key role in her rise to the top of the fencing world.

Kiefer’s fencing journey began at a young age, inspired by her father, a neurosurgeon who had captained the Duke University fencing team while in college.

Kiefer’s father once joked that his daughter’s passion for fencing may have come from watching him lose a local fencing tournament.

Steve told NBC News, “Toward the end of the tournament, a 14-year-old girl just took me apart, and I think that stood out in the minds of my daughters like, ‘Hey, I’d like a piece of that action.’”

Kiefer’s mother, Teresa, was born in the Philippines moving to the United States at a young age. She studied to become a psychiatrist and instilled in her daughter the importance of discipline and perseverance, traits that would prove invaluable in Lee’s athletic career.

Kiefer’s older sister, Alex, is also an accomplished fencer, having achieved All-American selection and won the 2011 NCAA championship in foil fencing while attending Harvard University.

Lee and Alex even faced off in the NCAA Championships in Lee’s freshman year at Notre Dame. Alex came out victorious in that matchup but the younger Kiefer would go on to accomplish feats in fencing that are nothing short of remarkable.

Lee would become a four-time NCAA champion and a ten-time team Pan American champion, and in 2017 at age 22 she became the first U.S. Women’s Foil Fencer to earn the number one World Ranking.

Kiefer’s crowning achievement came at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where she became the first American foil fencer in history to win an individual gold medal, or an individual medal of any kind for that matter. The highlights of the riveting match can be viewed on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AN4lOKAr1y4.

Beyond her athletic achievements, Kiefer is also a dedicated student and an aspiring doctor. She graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a pre-med degree and is currently pursuing a medical degree at the University of Kentucky.

Kiefer’s commitment to both her athletic and academic pursuits is a testament to her drive and determination.

Kiefer is setting her sights on becoming one of the all-time greats in the sport of fencing and will be a must-watch as she competes for the United States once again in the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Her success has not only made her a household name in American fencing but has also made her a source of pride for the Filipino American community.

As Lee Kiefer continues to break barriers in the world of fencing, she also serves as an inspiration to young athletes across the globe and is the embodiment of a well-rounded human being. 

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