Mariel Zagunis Blog: A Moment of Reflection
Mariel Zagunis is a saber fencer for Team USA and was the London 2012 flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony for Team USA. She is a two time Olympic Champion from the 2008 Beijing and Athens 2004 Olympic Games.
A Moment of Reflection
September 13, 2012
As I board my flight to Washington, D.C., for the Olympian's White House visit, I take some time to reflect on my journey of the past six weeks.
The Olympics are a very special time and I have had the privilege of experiencing three Games (04, 08, 12). People often ask me between Athens, Beijing, and London which was my favorite but they are all so special in their own way that it's literally impossible to choose. One thing that has been similar across the board, however, is the camaraderie among the athletes. After each Games I've come away with many special friendships with not only other fencers but athletes across many different sports and nations. In addition to making new friends and memories that will last a lifetime, it is still the 'once an Olympian, always an Olympian' feeling that really is the most special thing for me. When all of the medals are handed out and it is time to walk in the Closing Ceremonies, it is surreal to immediately reflect on the past two weeks and think to yourself, 'wow, I just did that.'
What set the London Olympics apart from Athens and Beijing, however, was the fact that I was nominated to have the honor and privilege of carrying the flag for Team USA in the Opening Ceremony. Only two fencers and six women have ever had this privilege before me. The overwhelming sense of excitement and pride in my country that I felt while walking through the tunnel with Team USA behind me is truly beyond words. It will be something that I will never, ever forget and a memory I'll cherish for the rest of my life.
There are many opportunities for Olympians in the small post-Games window of time that we must take advantage of before our names, sports, and accomplishments start to lose their relevance and the public moves on to the likes of presidential elections, college football, and fresh headline news stories. One of those special opportunities is the Olympians' trip to the White House, where Olympic and Paralympic athletes will all gather together again in the biggest contingent since the Olympics or Paralympics. This year's trip to this White House will also be extra special for me this time around because I will have the honor of presenting the U.S. flag I carried during the Opening Ceremony to President Obama. Apart from being very excited and proud to have such an amazing honor and responsibility yet again, I keep telling myself the same things I did before the Opening Ceremony: take in every second, don't forget to smile, and for goodness sakes please don't trip or drop the flag!!
One of the most exciting events that every Olympian is invited to attend is the visit to the White House. It's something I've looked forward to every time. We have dedicated our lives to our sports and represented our great country on the world stage, and now to be recognized by our President for our efforts is a huge honor. In a way it truly solidifies the fact that we have been a part of something very special. And like all of my previous Olympic experiences, I know this too will be something I will never forget.