Buckie Leach, coach of US gold medalist fencer in Tokyo, dies at 62

Buckie Leach, an elite fencing coach who guided the first American woman to win an individual Olympic medal in the foil competition, a g...


Buckie Leach, an elite fencing coach who guided the first American woman to win an individual Olympic medal in the foil competition, a gold medal at the Tokyo Summer Games last month, died on 14 August in a motorcycle accident in Pennsylvania. He was 62 years old.

Leach was driving alone on a trip from Colorado Springs to New York when his motorcycle hit a deer on a rural road in Pike Township, about 50 miles northwest of Philadelphia, according to the Pennsylvania State Police. Police did not describe the nature of his injuries but said he was wearing a helmet at the time, around 6:35 p.m.

Leach was a specialist in foil – one of the three fencing disciplines, along with saber and epee – during his 40 years of training, notably at the University of Notre Dame. As the coach of the United States Women’s National Foil Team, he coached teams at the 1996, 2000, 2004, 2016 and 2021 Olympics and was inducted into the United States Fencing Hall of Fame in 2013.

“Buckie was the patriarch of women’s foil in this country,” Gia Kvaratskhelia, Notre Dame’s head fencing coach, said in a telephone interview. “He developed the technical, tactical and emotional skills of our shooters.

Before the Tokyo Games this summer, American fencers had never won an individual medal of any kind in foil until Lee Kiefer – who worked with Leach and her personal trainer, Amgad Khazbak – won gold on the best Inna Deriglazova of the Russian Olympic Committee. (American women had previously won medals in the saber competition.)

“Lee winning gold was the completion of the job Buckie had started 40 years ago,” Kvaratskhelia said.

Kiefer recalled rushing Leach for lessons after joining the Notre Dame staff as an assistant coach in 2016. Two years later, she and three teammates won the world foil championship in Wuxi, in China, with Leach as a trainer.

“He almost started tattooing Nzingha, Nicole, Margaret and my names in Chinese somewhere on his body,” Kiefer wrote on Facebook after his death, referring to teammates Nzingha Prescod, Nicole Ross and Margaret Lu. until February 2021, we both moved to Colorado Springs to fulfill the Olympic dream of women’s foil. “

Anthony James Leach III was born September 22, 1958 in Elmira, NY His mother, Betty Jean (Hanechack) Leach was a housewife. His father was a career military officer who ran the American Modern Pentathlon Training Center at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.

Buckie (his father and grandfather had the same nickname) began training in pentathlon, an Olympic sport that encompasses fencing, swimming, running, horseback riding and shooting. But when his father retired to Ithaca, NY, young Leach couldn’t continue training, so he focused on fencing, the sport he was best at.

He joined a local fencing club, earned his master’s degree in fencing from the American Fencing Academy, also in Ithaca, and was competitive enough to be part of the United States World Junior Team in 1978. But he chose a future as a coach rather than a fencer.

“I didn’t have that killer instinct as an athlete,” Leach told Elmira’s Star Gazette in 1996. “It didn’t bother me enough when I lost.”

He founded the Rochester Fencing Center in Rochester, NY, in 1981 while still running a sports shoe store. During his 20 years there, the center has become a draw for young competitive fencers.

One of his stars, Iris Zimmermann, said by phone that Leach had revolutionized fencing in the United States by adding cross training and weightlifting to the tutelage in the sport.

“Back then, American female fencers weren’t training as athletes,” said Zimmermann, part of the U.S. women’s foil team that finished fourth at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. . “Buckie would pick me up for a swim before I went to school, and after school I would take a lesson. It was unheard of at the time. The fencers did What? “

Prescod, a two-time Olympian and the first black American woman to win an individual medal at the World Fencing Championships, a bronze medal in 2015, began training with Leach at the age of 10, in Fencers club in Manhattan, which he joined in 2001.

“He was awesome and fun, but he had a ton of rules, and if you didn’t follow them you had to do push-ups or run or do something crazy,” she said over the phone. “We all enjoyed it; we liked it. It was a productive challenge. Who doesn’t like to work hard and get great results? “

At Notre Dame, Leach led the fencing team winning three NCAA tag team championships, five NCAA individual foil titles and three Atlantic Coast Conference tag team championships.

One of his athletes, Kristjan Archer, said over the phone: “I hadn’t played at my peak for two years – it all felt weird and uncomfortable – and Buckie outfitted me with the things I needed to do to win. my first ACC championship. “

Leach had said ahead of the Olympics that he would retire from Notre Dame and the US national team.

He is survived by his sister, Kathy Leach. Her marriage to Lola DiLauro ended in divorce.

Zimmermann recalled Leach’s ambition to turn the American fencers into a powerful team, like the Europeans, who dominated the sport. Her sister, Felicia, also a student of Leach, competed in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics.

“We have worked so hard,” she said, “so that we can say, ‘Italy or France, we are going to beat you’. Oh my God we trained so hard and we were so prepared that we had no choice but to win in tournaments.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Buckie Leach, coach of US gold medalist fencer in Tokyo, dies at 62
Buckie Leach, coach of US gold medalist fencer in Tokyo, dies at 62
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