By Craig Bohnert | March 20, 2017, 10:53 a.m. (ET)

 

At the age of 22, Lee Kiefer has ascended to a height no other American has reached before, becoming the first fencer to achieve the world No. 1 ranking in women’s foil.

Lee Kiefer stands on the podium at the FIE Long Beach Grand Prix on March 18, 2017 in Long Beach, Calif.

The two-time Olympian moved up from No. 2 to the top of the table on the strength of her gold-medal performance Saturday at the grand prix in Long Beach, California, her fourth consecutive grand prix medal and third international podium in a row. With the win, Kiefer also becomes the first American women’s foil fencer to win two grand prix crowns.

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“Besides an Olympic medal, obtaining a world No. 1 ranking has always been my dream,” Kiefer said in a USA Fencing release. “I remember when the U.S. foil team was the youngest team with a lot of talent. It was hard to imagine the day that we would reach our potential and be the team to beat.”

With Kiefer’s ascension, Team USA now holds both the men’s and women’s No. 1 foil rankings as she joins Alexander Massialas, the 2016 Olympic silver medalist, as world No. 1. Team USA now has two fencers ranked among the top six in both the men’s and women’s foil rankings, a status equaled only by Italy. Nicole Ross is No. 5 on the women’s side, while Miles Chamley-Watson is No. 6 among the men.

Ranked No. 4 less than a year ago, Kiefer’s recent success – which includes three international titles and six medals in the past year months – moved her past previous No. 1 Arianna Errigo of Italy, a seven-time world champion who took silver at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Kiefer is the eighth American fencer to reach world No. 1 status. In addition to Massialas, 2016 Olympians Gerek Meinhardt and Race Imboden have earned the ranking in foil. Four Team USA saber fencers have earned the distinction: two-time Olympic champion Mariel Zagunis, three-time Olympic medalist Sada Jacobson-Bâby, two-time Olympic medalist Becca Ward and 2008 Olympic team silver medalist Keeth Smart.

A senior at the University of Notre Dame, where she is a pre-med major, Kiefer is a two-time Pan American Games champion and has reached a world cup podium five times. Her bronze medal at the 2011 world championships marked only the second time an American woman reached the individual podium at the event.