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Lee Kiefer Wins Fourth Consecutive Pan Ams Gold in Individual Foil

by Brendan Rourke

Lee Kiefer celebrates winning gold in women's individual foil during the Pan American Games Santiago 2023 on Oct. 30, 2023 in Santiago, Chile. (Photo by Mark Reis)

SANTIAGO, Chile — It didn’t take long for Lee Kiefer, the reigning Olympic champion in women’s individual foil fencing, to make a statement in Santiago.
Carrying a streak of three straight Pan American Games gold medals into the Pan American Games Santiago 2023, the world No. 1 ranked fencer made quick work of all of her opponents to stretch her run to four on Monday, Oct. 30. After the match, the soft-spoken Kiefer summed up her emotions with three simple words.
“Oh my gosh.”
After going undefeated in pool play, Kiefer won her elimination bouts by scores of 15-6, 15-8 and 15-8. In the gold medal match against Canada’s Eleanor Harvey — an opponent she has faced several times on the International Fencing Federation’s (FIE) world circuit — she held an 8-6 advantage after the first three-minute period.
As the one-minute intermission passed, Harvey, the current No. 8 ranked women’s foil fencer, never scored again. Kiefer tallied seven consecutive touches, including a few that required a flick of her foil behind her back to score when they fought in close quarters.
“For both of us, we have a game plan going in,” she spoke on the change between periods. “Then, it’s kind of feeling what the other person is doing, and also feeling what your body is doing at the end of the day when it’s tired.
“I think I was really able to get my energy up and continue to be dynamic in the second period.”
It was an exhausting day for Kiefer, who touched down just a day prior to the women’s individual foil competition. Her first bout of the day began at 10:45 a.m, while her gold medal match did not start until 6:45 pm.
Afterwards, she admitted that she was “still happy to be fencing.” The Lexington, Kentucky, native has contemplated back away from the sport before. After the Olympic Games Rio 2016, Kiefer thought about hanging up her foil for good.
However, it’s a good thing she didn’t, as she became Team USA’s first-ever fencer — male or female — to win Olympic gold in individual foil at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

(right) Lee Kiefer competes against Eleanor Harvey of Team Canada in the women's individual foil gold medal match during the Pan American Games Santiago 2023 on Oct. 30, 2023 in Santiago, Chile. (Photo by Mark Reis)

Now considered a veteran of the fencing world, Kiefer has learned a thing or two since winning her first Pan American Games gold at the Pan American Games Guadalajara 2011. Back then, she was just 17 years old. Now 29, she reflected on the strides she has made over the years.
“I would say I’m a lot more dynamic, a lot smarter,” she stated. “I think it’s easy to be more in your head the older you get, because you have a body of work behind you. So, I’m proud of myself for just being present and fighting hard.”
Speaking of “being present,” in a recent interview with Team USA, Kiefer said that this time she wanted to enjoy Santiago, go sight-seeing and enjoy the city more than she did in her previous trip to the country’s capital in 2015.
This go-around is even sweeter, as Kiefer claimed her historic hardware in front of her best friend, her favorite fencing partner and most importantly, her husband, Gerek Meinhardt. Acting as her coach for Santiago, the 33-year-old who ranks No. 2 in the world on the men’s side in foil got a front row seat to Kiefer’s dominant performances Monday night. The long time “fencing power couple” got married in 2018.
“We share all of our victories,” Kiefer said. “If you heard him coaching, he knows the things I need to fine tune. He knows when I need energy and motivation. I’m lucky to have a teammate like that.”
While the fencing tournament at the Santiago Games does not serve as an Olympic qualifying event, it acts as a major practice milestone for the top-ranked fencers of the Western Hemisphere. It signals the beginning of the rigorous FIE tournament season in which every single bout will count towards an Olympic roster spot.
Every competitor will most likely face each other again during qualification time, including Kiefer and Harvey. However, the even-keeled Kiefer will just have a  bit more confidence (and bragging rights) than everyone else moving forward.