American fencer Lee Kiefer is used to being the youngster in the room. Last year the 18-year-old rising star was the only fencer to claim individual medals at the Cadet (under 17), Youth (under 20) and Senior world championships.
And after three victories Saturday in the women’s individual foil competition, Kiefer was the youngest competitor to reach the quarterfinals. At 5-foot-4, she was also one of the shortest.
Behind her American flag mask, the recent high school graduate flexed her muscle with an impressive run to the quarterfinals.
But 24-year-old Italian Arriana Errigo put an end to Kiefer’s hopes of becoming the first American woman to earn an individual foil medal at the Olympics.
Errigo, who had a seven-inch height advantage, was the aggressor early, building a 9-4 lead. But Kiefer, quiet and composed from the outset, rallied with five straight points to pull within one. She would get no closer.
Twice Errigo ripped off her mask to celebrate victory, and twice she was denied the touch by the judges. But after Kiefer closed the deficit to 14-10, Errigo finally finished her off.
Next up for Errigo, fellow Italian and three-time defending gold medalist Valentina Vezzali, who edged Ines Boubakri of Turkey, 8-7, to reach the semifinals. Elisa Di Francisca continued Italy’s could give the Italians a podium sweep if she can get past South Korea’s Hyun Hee Nam in the other semifinal.