Lee Kiefer, Fencing

With the 2012 Summer Olympics now officially underway, it’s time to kick off my Asian-American Olympian profile series! …Maybe I should work on the name a little more.

Competition starts tomorrow with a total of 12 events on the schedule being medal events. When I first saw the medal events on the schedule, I was so surprised! I don’t know why it never occurred to me that there would already be finals on the first day of competition. The Olympics, sadly, is only 17 days long after all.

Credit: USOCOne of the medals that will be awarded is in women’s individual foil. (For those not familiar, a foil is one of the weapons used in fencing.) Among the women representing the U.S. in this event is 18-year-old Lee Kiefer, a half-Filipina from Lexington, Kentucky. Currently ranked #1 on both the junior and senior levels in the U.S. and #22 and #5 on the junior and senior levels in the world, respectively, Lee is seen as America’s best chance at a gold medal in this event. Seeing as in 2011, she was the only fencer to win individual medals at the Senior, Youth, and Cadet world championships, I’m inclined to agree.

You could say that Lee has fencing in her blood. Her father, Steve, was the fencing captain during his time at Duke University. Her sister, Alex, won the NCAA title in foil during her freshman year at Harvard. Younger brother, Axel, is also shaping up to be an accomplished fencer with his first Cadet European Cup win in 2011. The only member of the family without a fencing background is mom, Teresa.

Lee’s aunt, Martz Angeles Coleman, recounted a couple (adorable) stories that have happened in the time leading up to the Games.

Coleman said that when they wrote a note for Lee on a piece of paper and tacked it on the Support Map — a huge board inside the Athletes’ Village where supporters can tack notes of support on the map of the participating countries — Lee asked that they tack the note on the Philippine map so people would know that she is from the country.

Coleman said Lee told her that in the Games Village, “she would see some Filipino athletes and sometimes feels like coming up and saying “Hey, I’m Filipino, too.” She ends up looking at them with a peculiar smile.

You can see Lee Kiefer and other fencers competing tomorrow on MSNBC or through NBC’s Live Extra.

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