U.S. fencer Lee Kiefer is a true world traveler

Notre Dame sophomore has packed itinerary as she eyes repeat Olympic berth in 2016

Find yourself a quiet spot and read the next few paragraphs very slowly, or they won't make much sense.

Actually, they might not make much sense no matter what.

That seeming folly is just one of the things that make the current chapters in fencer Lee Kiefer's life story so interesting, in a Ripley's Believe It or Not! kind of way.

The next two weekends, the 2012 Olympian, 2011 senior world championships bronze medalist, three-time junior world championships medalist, cadet world champion, Notre Dame sophomore and reigning NCAA foil champion (yup, at 19, she is all that) will compete with the Irish in Virginia and New York.

The week after that, Kiefer goes to a senior international tournament in Poland. Then she comes home for a few days before heading to another such tournament in Hungary.

In March, she will be at a tournament in Germany (over spring break, thankfully) and the NCAA championships in Ohio.

April has her in Bulgaria for the junior world championships and in South Korea for another senior tournament. Kiefer would like to fit in an event in China the following week, but that would mean two trips to Asia because she needs to be at Notre Dame between them, as final exams loom in early May.

"It does seem ridiculous to fly back home, but I can't keep up with school if I don't," she said. "I am taking a lighter load this semester, but it will still be hard."

This is what constitutes a lighter load for a science major who plans to join her parents in the family business, medicine:

Biology, bio lab, general chemistry, chem lab, statistics for life sciences and a seminar in understanding mental illnesses.

Raise your hand if you are exhausted just from reading about all that.

This wild ride all began because Kiefer's father, Steve, now a neurosurgeon, decided to try fencing as a walk-on at Duke and wound up an apostle for the sport. Lee and her siblings — older sister Alex, a Harvard senior on a pre-med track; and younger brother Axel, a cadet world team member and high school senior in Lexington, Ky. — became converts after watching Dad compete in local tournaments.

"We were all like, 'Oooh, let us try that,' " Lee said.

Steve Kiefer taught his children fencing basics, and then he and his wife, Teresa, a psychiatrist, began taking them once or twice a week to the nearest fencing club, 80 miles away in Louisville. He and a friend eventually got the Bluegrass Fencers Club established in Lexington, and they lured former Egyptian national team fencer Amgad Khazbak from Houston to be its head coach.

Khazbak, the 2012 U.S. Olympic foil coach, said he immediately saw promise in Lee.

"Her flexibility, her speed and her personality," Khazbak said.

That personality includes a temper and stubbornness she insists came from her father. That Lee speaks softly and is only 5-foot-4 and 105 pounds belies a fierce competitiveness, some of which came out in tears after bouts with Alex.

"And possibly blood, who knows?" Lee added with a laugh.

Alex won the NCAA title as a Harvard freshman. She was the only person to beat her younger sister in 25 bouts at last year's NCAA meet, where Alex took sixth.

From the time she won her first national medal as a 10-year-old, Lee passionately pursued more success.

 

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

FROM THE WIRES

Phelps welcomed back by rivals and team mates alike

Phelps beaten in first comeback final