This week on Kentucky’s Backroads we meet a man who came to America from far away and brought his passion for one sport with him. It has turned Lexington into an unlikely hot spot for fencing.
Amgad Khazbak left the political and social problems of his native Egypt behind a decade ago and moved to the United States. By 2004 he had settled in Lexington and opened a fencers’ club.
"I come here to have better education for my kids, better life for them, better future for them,” explained Khazbak before a practice session in his non-descript club located on the second floor of a Lexington strip mall.
"When I came here I put all my experience in this club." He concentrates on the discipline of foil. It has paid off.
"I find myself lucky to have him as a coach and how incredible he is,” said Taylor Hood, one of the many younger fencers who take lessons from the former coach of the Egyptian National team.
Last October one of Khazbak’s fencers, 17 year old Lee Kiefer of Lexington, finished third in the World Senior Fencing Championships in foil.
"It was a crazy experience,” said Kiefer, who graces the cover of American Fencing magazine. Open up the magazine and her accomplishment in Italy is the feature story.
Khazbak will never forget just before the medal ceremony. “I told her, see this flag, this American flag will go up and the American anthem will go now because of your result."
Khazbak hopes to repeat that moment in London this August during the 2012 Olympics. He will coach the U.S. Women’s Foil team and Kiefer is considered one of the favorites to make the team.
"It is great honor of course,” Khazbak said of coaching in the Olympics. “It is different that you represent the United States. The United States is the biggest country in the world."
Coming to America has allowed him to help grow a sport which he calls “physical chess.”
"It is coordination between the body and the brain."
Khazbak came to America on a work visa then obtained a green card. On January 27th, 2012, he was sworn in as a U.S. citizen.
“It was a great day,” he said with a broad smile.
"I'm excited for him,” Kiefer said. “We always travel together and so since I have my American passport I breeze through the lines and then I wait for him for like ten minutes because they can't read his passport."
Here’s hoping that this summer both coach and pupil will be able to use their U.S. passports to travel to the Olympics together.