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How Notre Dame Helped Produce And Foster Some Of The World’s Greatest Fencing Talent

By Leah Jenk |&#13
Feb. 28, 2019,&#13
10:57 a.m. (ET)&#13

Gerek Meinhardt and Lee Kiefer pose for a image with their NCAA awards in 2014.


Upcoming month the University of Notre Dame fencing team will compete for its third-straight NCAA national championship. Not only has the Combating Irish recognized itself as a collegiate powerhouse, it has also properly trained nine Olympic fencers.

The most decorated fencer in U.S. historical past, Mariel Zagunis, competed for Notre Dame from 2004-06 and also has won two individual Olympic gold medals and two team Olympic bronze medals in a occupation that has spanned four Video games and is not nonetheless above.

Extra not too long ago, 2017 graduate and four-time individual NCAA champion Lee Kiefer and two-time NCAA champion Gerek Meinhardt, who earned his bachelor’s diploma in 2013 and master’s in 2015, well balanced their time involving competing for Notre Dame and Workforce United states.

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At this time rated third and ninth, respectively, in the planet rankings, Kiefer and Meinhardt transcended the application. Kiefer is a 3-time planet championship medalist with team gold, silver and individual bronze, and Meinhardt a 5-time planet medalist with 3 team silvers and two individual bronzes.

“Of study course I recall each solitary second of recruiting them,” explained Notre Dame fencing head coach Gia Kvaratskhelia. “Their expertise will come as soon as each 25 many years.”

Kiefer competed at the Olympic Video games London 2012 and in the very same month attended her freshman orientation at Notre Dame. Kvaratskhelia recollects promising Kiefer that with the development Notre Dame can supply that London would not be her previous Video games. As destiny, and a whole lot of tough do the job, would have it, Kiefer competed at the 2016 Video games in Rio ahead of returning to her senior 12 months at Notre Dame.

Her Notre Dame teammate and now fiancé, Meinhardt, is a 3-time Olympian (2008, 2012, 2016) himself. At 18 many years old at the Olympic Video games Beijing 2008 he became the youngest U.S. Olympic fencer in historical past.

“It was surely tough,” Meinhardt admitted of balancing remaining a pupil-athlete and Olympian. “But Notre Dame has the most astounding aid method and my coach below coordinated with my private coach to be super strategic.”

To qualify for the NCAA national championship, a pupil-athlete need to fence in a bare minimum of 3 of the eight competitions each and every time. This authorized time for Kiefer and Meinhardt to journey internationally for planet cups during the collegiate time. 

“I tell my athletes not absolutely everyone can have the expertise of Lee and Gerek, but absolutely everyone can be a wonderful teammate like they have been,” explained Kvaratskhelia. “They set the tone of our application and the lifestyle has been handed down to each athlete given that.”

In 2018, Notre Dame fencing recognized the Lee Kiefer/Gerek Meinhardt Award which is “given to the fencer who provides their time selflessly and humbly in training, as judged by their teammates and coaches. This recipient goes above and past expectations, serving to teammates get ready for tournaments though pursuing their own passion for the sport.”

There is no question the contributions Kiefer and Meinhardt built to Notre Dame fencing, but they are swift to say how considerably they obtained from the application as properly.

“We grew as so considerably a lot more than fencers,” Kiefer explained. “Becoming a greater athlete is about a lot more than just acquiring more robust. I realized why I love fencing.”

Kiefer and Meinhardt now stay and practice in Lexington, Kentucky, wherever Kiefer is also in medical university at the University of Kentucky. They find time to plan their September wedding ceremony, but are concentrated on the qualifying for the Olympic Video games Tokyo 2020.

In the meantime, Notre Dame fencing continues to thrive. Past week the Combating Irish adult males and gals the two won the Atlantic Coast Conference championships, and for the first time in application historical past they swept all 6 individual titles as properly.

As for winning a third straight national championship in March, Kvaratskhelia says, “We’ve just won two, there is no pressure! Just a whole lot of tough do the job and a little little bit of Irish luck.”

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