A heartbroken top coach of a United States fencing team that won a gold medal in the women’s saber competition at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games has died. He was 62.
Buckie Leach, who had multiple sclerosis, unexpectedly collapsed at his home in Tucson, Ariz., on Friday, and died on Saturday, according to the U.S. Olympic Committee.
“Buckie was the inspiration for our fencing program over the last decade,” U.S. fencing coach Tim Rudloff said in a statement. “It is now my privilege to carry on with his legacy as one of the world’s top fencers coaches. I am extremely proud of his contributions to U.S. fencing.”
Rudloff, a former U.S. saber fencer himself, had hired Leach as an assistant coach at the time he took over as the team’s coach in 2014. A native of Hoboken, N.J., Mr. Leach traveled to Japan last winter to coach members of the U.S. team that won a gold medal in Tokyo this year.
He was the head coach at Furman University, where he was a valued figure within the university and the fencer-in-residence, where he helped train fencers from the rank of rookie to Olympian, according to the university.
“Rabbit” Leach led the Carolina Panthers, the New York Giants and, later, the University of Charlotte football team to victories, in addition to leading the national fencing team’s training and performance program. He had been a member of the national fencing team since 1973, and was an accomplished performer in his own right, working with some of the top American fencers of his time, including Angela Bittner, the 1982 World Champion, and Camille Edwards, who won the gold medal at the 1988 Olympics.
In 1992, as a coach and assistant, Mr. Leach watched his then-fiancée, Angela Bittner, win the gold medal in the World Championships in Spain. He also coached Bittner’s father, Ray Bittner, who won the fencing championship in the 1990s. Mr. Leach lived in Columbia, S.C., when he coached the University of Charlotte.
Mr. Leach is survived by a mother, former actress T. M. Ipson, and stepfather Dr. Pat Ipson, a pediatrician.
A funeral service will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 9, at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in South Carolina.