Team USA Fencing Coach Dies in Motorcycle Accident After Returning from 2020 Tokyo Olympics

by Jonathan Howard

Long-time Team USA fencing coach, Buckie Leach, has died. After returning from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Leach was on a road trip and riding his motorcycle. Sadly, he was involved in an accident and passed away on Saturday night, August the 14th.

There are few coaches that had the pedigree of Buckie Leach. Through five Olympics, Leach coached the U.S. women’s fencing team. Not only did he coach Team USA, but he was also an assistant coach for University of Notre Dame fencing. In 2013, Leach was inducted into the U.S. Fencing Hall of Fame.

Throughout Leach’s career, he elevated women’s fencing to new levels in the United States. Coaching the U.S. women’s foil team at the 1996 Atlanta Games, the 2000 Sydney Olympics, 2004 Athens Games, 2016 Rio Games, and, of course, the 2020 Tokyo Games this year. Team USA Fencing released a statement on the passing.

“Our hearts are broken at the loss of U.S. Women’s Foil Team coach Buckie Leach just two weeks after leading the squad at his fifth Olympic Games,” the team shared via Instagram.

While Leach was coach at Notre Dame, his athletes would win a dozen individual championship medals in foil. It only took him five years to achieve this feat. However, that wasn’t his greatest accomplishment as a fencing coach. During the Olympics this year, Lee Kiefer won the first Olympic gold in Team USA women’s fencing history. Kiefer was not only coached on the Olympic team by Leach. At Notre Dame, Leach coached Kiefer as a student-athlete.

Team USA Fencing Coach Leaves Legacy Behind

Not only did Buckie Leach coach Lee Kiefer to a gold medal in the Olympics, but he also had another medalist at the games as well. On the men’s side, Nick Itkin took home a bronze medal for the Team USA men’s foil team. Itkin was also an athlete at Notre Dame under Leach. Gerek Meinhardt, the husband of Kiefer, was also on that bronze medal team and Irishman alumni.

Head coach of the Notre Dame fencing team, Gia Kvaratskhelia, also released a statement on the tragic news. “I am devastated to learn of the tragic passing of my dear friend Buckie Leach, who was taken from us far too soon,” the statement, shared by Notre Dame, read. “[H]is enduring memory will be of the incredible person that he was – his kindness, his passion, his sense of humor, and the genuine way he brightened the lives of everyone who was fortunate enough to know him,” Kvaratskhelia closed her statement.

Truly a tragedy as Buckie Leach had just returned home from the Olympic Games. He was on a cross-country trip when the accident occurred. A Hall of Fame coach, he will be remembered by his family, friends, former athletes, and loved ones.