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Olympic Team Coach Buckie Leach Passes Away

08/15/2021, 6:15pm CDT
By Nicole Jomantas

Coach Buckie Leach at the 2019 Senior World Championships with Nzingha Prescod, Jackie Dubrovich, Nicole Prescod and Lee Kiefer after the team's bronze medal win.

Five-time Olympic Coach Buckie Leach.

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – USA Fencing is heartbroken at the loss of Anthony “Buckie” Leach (Mt. Sinai, N.Y.) – one of the sport’s longtime Olympic coaches who led the U.S. Women’s Foil Team at the 1996, 2000, 2004, 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games.

A 2013 inductee into the USA Fencing Hall of Fame, Leach passed away on Saturday night at the age of 62 following a motorcycle accident on a cross-country road trip after his return from the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Leach is credited with building the U.S. Women’s Foil Team’s success over nearly 30 years, including four medals at the Senior World Team Championships, including the squad’s first Senior World title in 2018. He also coached more than a half dozen personal students to Olympic berths as well as foil fencers to Senior, Junior and Cadet World titles.

Leach’s students reached new heights in any weapon for USA Fencing during the 1990s when Iris Zimmermann (Rochester, N.Y.) became the first U.S. fencer to win a Cadet World Championship in any weapon, taking gold at age 14 in 1995, followed by a Junior World title in 1999 and earning the first medal at the Senior World Championships for a U.S. fencer in any weapon with a bronze medal the same year.  Zimmermann’s older sister, Felicia Zimmermann (Rochester, N.Y.), became the first U.S. woman to win the Overall Junior World Cup title and went on to compete in two Olympic Games, making her debut in 1996 and competing with Iris in 2000. Ann Marsh-Senic (Royal Oak, Mich.) earned a seventh-place finish at the 1996 Games with her Atlanta Games teammate, Suzie Paxton (Brooklyn, N.Y.), rising to a top-eight world ranking during her  career.  

In 2000, Leach coached Team USA to a fourth-place finish at the Sydney Olympic Games, missing bronze by just two touches. The U.S. Women’s Foil Team avenged the loss in 2001, winning bronze with an all-star lineup that included the Zimmermanns as well as Marsh-Senic and Erinn Smart (Brooklyn, N.Y.) who would go on to win silver with Team USA at the 2008 Games.

A coach at the Fencers Club from 2001-2016, Leach’s personal students also included two-time Olympian Nzingha Prescod (Brooklyn, N.Y.) who won gold at the 2011 Junior World Championships and became the first Black woman to win an individual medal at the Senior World Championships with her bronze in 2015.

The U.S. Women’s Foil Team had its most successful quadrennium in history from 2017-21, earning three straight medals at the Senior World Championships, including gold in 2018, silver in 2017 and bronze in 2018. Last month, the squad narrowly missed the podium with Lee Kiefer (Lexington, Ky.), Sabrina Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.), Nicole Ross (New York City, N.Y.) and Jackie Dubrovich (Riverdale, N.J.) placing fourth at the Tokyo Games.

After coaching his fourth Olympic Games in 2016, Leach joined the Notre Dame coaching staff beginning in the 2016-17 season. During his five seasons as an assistant coach at Notre Dame, Leach’s students won 12 individual medals at NCAAs, including five out of 10 possible gold medals in the individual foil events, with the Fighting Irish winning the team titles in 2017, 2018 and 2021. Among the athletes Leach coached in South Bend were U.S. Olympic Fencing Team members Kiefer, Massialas and Nick Itkin (Los Angeles, Calif.) Kiefer, who won Team USA’s first-ever Olympic title in women’s foil just three weeks ago, won four straight NCAA titles for Notre Dame with her final gold coming in 2017. Itkin claimed back-to-back titles in 2018 and 2019 and earned bronze in Tokyo with the men’s foil squad. Massialas won silver at the 2018 NCAAs and competed in the women’s foil team event in Tokyo. Two-time NCAA individual medalist Amita Berthier also made her Olympic debut in Tokyo, competing for Singapore.

Members of the USA Fencing and international fencing communities who would like to share photos or memories of Leach are asked to email for potential inclusion in upcoming tributes.

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