Lee Kiefer poses on the podium during the medal ceremony for the women's foil individual at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on July 25, 2021 in Chiba, Japan.
Over the past three weeks, Lee Kiefer has traveled to Europe and Asia with a brief stop in Washington, D.C. to visit the White House.
It’s been a whirlwind tour that has left her more excited than exhausted.
Kiefer, 27, said she initially planned to use this season to ease her way back “into the swing of things” after winning her first Olympic gold medal in women’s foil fencing at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
Then the Lexington, Kentucky, native had a moment of clarity.
Why, she wondered, should she take it easy when she has the passion, the talent and, frankly, the free time right now to be the world’s top-ranked female fencer?
“So I would love to go for the world cup title and end the season No. 1,” Kiefer said last week from Seoul, where she was preparing for the weekend’s grand prix event in nearby Incheon, South Korea. “It’s going to be challenging just the way everything works, but I have my heart set on it. I’m not afraid.”
May is both Mental Health Awareness Month and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, two causes that Kiefer has helped bring more attention to lately.
She’s a Filipina American who started seeing a sports psychologist a few years ago to deal with the pressures of being both a three-time Olympian and a third-year medical student at the University of Kentucky.
Along the way, she has gotten support from the Filipino community and her husband, fellow American fencer and two-time Olympic bronze medalist Gerek Meinhardt, whose mother is from Taiwan.
Kiefer, who’ll turn age 28 on June 15, also checks in regularly with her sports psychologist.
“Right now, I really feel like I’m in a really calming spot in my life. At the end of our calls, I just laugh. I’m like, ‘Hey, guess what? I didn’t cry today.’” Kiefer said, laughing.
“And we both laugh because it’s such an up-and-down. I don’t expect myself to stay at this point, but I’m enjoying it and I’m also better equipped to handle the lows or get out of them now.”
There have been more highs than lows lately, especially on the fencing piste.
On April 30, Kiefer earned her first world cup victory of the season when she defeated France’s Anita Blaze in the finals of the competition in Tauberbischofsheim, Germany. That marked her fourth career world cup win after finishing second at events in France and Mexico earlier this season.
Four days later, Kiefer wore the gold medal she won in Tokyo to the White House when President Joe Biden recognized a large group of Olympians and Paralympians.
Then, over the weekend, Kiefer was back in competition in Incheon — and once again she ended on top. It marked her third career win on the grand prix level, and her first since 2017.