Mariel Zagunis Presents President Obama with American Flag During Team USA White House Visit
(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.) has reached levels most athletes only dream of. After two Olympic gold medals and four Senior World Championships titles, the 27-year-old is USA Fencing’s most decorated Olympian.
But some honors transcend what happens on the fencing strip and Zagunis experienced one of those on Friday when she had the opportunity to make a special presentation to President Barack Obama during Team USA’s visit to the White House.
In front of more than 400 members of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Teams, Zagunis, the 2012 Opening Ceremony flag bearer for Team USA, joined with Paralympic Closing Ceremony flag bearer Brad Snyder (Baltimore, Md.) to present President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama with an American flag sewn from 29,254 donated stitches as part of the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Raise Our Flag program. The flag traveled to London with members of the U.S. Olympic Team and was displayed in USA House throughout the Games.
“I was the flag bearer in the Opening Ceremony for the Olympics and a special thing about this flag is the USOC launched the Raise Our Flag campaign for this summer and it was a fundraising effort to support Olympians and Paralympians,” Zagunis said during her presentation on the South Lawn of the White House. “Over 29,000 people donated to this cause and each donation was turned into a stitch that was incorporated in the flag that Brad and I carried and it’s my pleasure and honor today to present you guys with the flag from the Games.”
President Obama accepted the gift and thanked the athletes for being great role models.
“We could not be prouder of you,” said President Obama who mentioned that he followed the action at the Games every night. “You gave us a summer we will never forget.”
Following the presentation, the President, First Lady and Vice President Joe Biden shook the hands of each team member.
“I had a chance to meet Michelle in London but I've never had a chance to meet the President, or the Vice President for that matter, so that was so surreal. We really appreciate all three of them taking the time out of their very busy schedules to do this for the athletes. It really means a lot to us,” Zagunis said.