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Bluegrass Fencers' Club Now Home To A Gold Medalist

Stu Johnson

Lexington has had an international presence in competitive fencing for several years.  But, attention may have peaked last week when Dunbar High School Graduate Lee Kiefer earned the gold medal in the 2021 Olympic Games.  The 27-year-old Lexington woman can trace her foil roots to a second-floor fencing club studio off Clays Mill Road.  That same practice site remains very active today. 

This late afternoon finds Amgad Kahzbak, in full gear, teaching a young foil-in-hand female at the Bluegrass Fencers’ Club.  It’s what he does.  Kahzbak, who’s worked with Olympic Gold Medalist Lee Kiefer for 17 years, just got back from Tokyo.  On his longstanding student taking the top honor, the Egyptian-born coach said he wasn’t surprised, but quickly added, it’s not easy to do.  “We have goal to reach. Me and the parents and Lee, this was the goal, that we get top of the world,” said Kahzbak. 

Credit Stu Johnson
Coach Amgad Kahzbak provides training for a young fencer at the Bluegrass Fencers' Club

Kahzbak said Kiefer was focused, slept well, and had good planning before her Olympic title bout.  He said being the best doesn’t always equate to the gold, because of all the variables around the competition.   

Not one, but two fencing medalists are returning to central Kentucky.  Kiefer’s husband Gerek Meinhardt is bringing home his second bronze medal as part of the men’s team foil competition. 

Khazbak, who’s seen a number of his students go on to international success, said officials in other states and countries have tried to lure him away from Lexington.  But, he has no plans to move.  And at 57, he plans on teaching many more fencers. “My young generation watch how the older generation doing and try to do the same, try to get the same skills.  That’s how the club is growing.  How the club is getting better and better every year,” noted Khazbak. 

The Bluegrass Fencers’ Club finds battles with foils in abundance from 4-to-8, often five days a week.    


Coaching fencing is a family affair with Amgad Khazabak.  His 21-year-old daughter Mayar plays a significant role in the Lexington training facility.  She noted group classes include instruction in footwork, target work, and drills.  Khazbak said fencing contains a heavy dose of mental strategy, kind of like a game of chess. “A lot of people think it’s very physical because you think of sword fighting, but it’s actually a very mental game.  Like, if I’m fencing the strongest person in the world, they probably wouldn’t even get a point on me because it’s all very mental, it’s all very strategic.  You have to try to trick your opponent and do things like that,” explained Khazbak.

There are three disciplines in fencing; epee, foil and sabre.  Foil, which is rooted in scoring points by using a weapon to touch the chest or back, is the focus of the Bluegrass Fencers’ Club. 

Credit Stu Johnson

Some ten fencing participants challenged each other on this day. 14-year-old Fiona Lee said the mental part of the sport involves trying to determine your opponent’s movements. “You have to be two steps ahead, or three even, of whatever you think the other person is going to do.  But, the hard part with that is not psyching yourself out and not over-thinking, cause a lot of people do that and you can’t really plan anything and you’re too caught up,” said Lee. 

Some fencing students travel long distances for an opportunity to train in Lexington.  That included a participant from Singapore.  Much closer, but still a significant drive away, is Cincinnati where Jeremy Lim lives. “For me fencing is more than like doing the actions and everything.  It’s all the community there supporting you and just the thrill of being able to fence your whole way through every single day.  Like good days or bad days, fencing always seems to improve my mood,” noted Lim. 

The youngest fencer this practice day was 11-year old Theo Mandzy who’s been fencing for about three years.  He enjoys participating in competition and had a simple response to why he likes fencing. 

“I like how I get to stab people with swords,” said Mandzy. 

Mayar Khazbak said fencing is actually a very safe sport with lots of protective equipment for the entire body.  She added it all has to get checked before entering any type of tournament. 

Fencing is not just for the teenaged set.   Megan Romano just took up the sport four years ago, but she had been thinking about it for much longer.  Ever since her childhood interest in a well-known sleuth. 

“That was my first grownup book was the complete Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes for all those Holmesians out there will know that, he fences.  That was always just something that I kind of wanted to explore and never knew anyone that did it before so I didn’t really have an in,” Romano said. 

Credit Stu Johnson

Romano and all the fencing club members were certainly caught up in the frenzy of Lexington’s own Lee Kiefer’s march to the top honor in Tokyo.  Jeremy Lim said he and his friends were up most of the night before Kiefer’s big moment.  He said it was well worth a lack of sleep.  Lee Kiefer and Gerek Meinhardt are expected back in town next week, back with their gold and bronze medals. 

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