The most decorated fencer in U.S. history has officially earned the opportunity to add more hardware to her growing collection. Mariel Zagunis qualified for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games after her win at the recent Athens world cup.
The 30-year-old now has enough points in the USA Fencing national senior team point standings – which do not conclude until April – to guarantee herself the top spot in the rankings and a place on the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team.
Rio will mark Zagunis’ fourth Olympics and an opportunity to earn her fourth and fifth Olympic medals.
Her legacy began at the Athens 2004 Games, when women’s saber made its Olympic debut and so did Zagunis – though not in any conventional manner. The daughter of two Olympic rowers, Zagunis did not initially qualify for the 2004 Olympic team, but after after Nigeria opted not to send its fencer, Zagunis found herself competing in Athens as the next-highest fencer in the world rankings.
Only 19 at the time, the underdog won the gold medal and became the first U.S. fencer to win Olympic gold in 100 years.
Four years later, Zagunis, ranked sixth in the world heading into the Beijing Games, successfully defender her Olympic title, leading a U.S. sweep of the medals. Five days later, she led Sada Jacobson and Becca Ward to the team bronze medal in that event’s Olympic debut.
At the London 2012 Games, Zagunis was selected by her peers to lead the U.S. delegation into the Opening Ceremony as flag bearer. That experience would be the highlight of those Games for Zagunis, who finished fourth in the individual competition. With no women’s team saber competition contested in 2012, Zagunis left London empty-handed.
Heading into her fourth Games, Zagunis is once again a medal favorite. She won two of the three world cups held so far this season, and is currently ranked No. 2 in the world.
In addition to her three Olympic medals, Zagunis owns 13 world championship medals, including two individual wins (2009, 2010) and two team wins (2005, 2014).
Joining Zagunis in Rio is Ibtihaj Muhammad, who qualified for her first Olympic appearance as the second-ranked fencer in the U.S.’ point standings.
Zagunis and Muhammad will be joined by a third U.S. athlete – who will be determined when the point standings end in April – in both the individual and team competitions, as well as a replacement athlete for the team event only.