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Mariel Zagunis Wins World Cup In Athens, The Site Of Her First Olympic Title

By Brandon Penny | Jan. 30, 2016, 5:24 p.m. (ET)

Mariel Zagunis celebrates winning the women's saber world cup on Jan. 30, 2016 in Athens, Greece.

Athens, Greece has been good to Mariel Zagunis. After barely even qualifying to compete at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, Zagunis won women’s saber gold and became the first U.S. fencer to win Olympic gold in 100 years.

Eleven and a half years later, her winning ways continued in the birthplace of the modern Olympic Games as Zagunis struck gold once again, this time at a world cup.

Zagunis’ gold medal Saturday evening was her second win of the three world cups held so far this season. She won the first event of the season, held in October in Caracas, Venezuela, before finishing 17th in Orleans, France, later that month.

In Athens, she defeated South Korea’s Yoon Jisu in the round of 32, 15-11, before overcoming 2012 Olympian Vassiliki Vougiouka of Greece, 15-12, in the round of 16.

The 30-year-old narrowly won her quarterfinal bout against reigning world silver medalist Cecilia Berder of France with a score of 15-14. In the semifinal, she faced longtime U.S. teammate Ibtihaj Muhammad, which would guarantee Team USA of two medals. The more experienced Zagunis won that bout as well, 15-6, meaning Muhammad would take bronze.

In the gold-medal match, Zagunis went up against defending world champion Sofiya Velikaya of Russia and came out on top, 15-11.

Muhammad, who is hoping to make her first Olympic team later this year, defeated 2013 and 2014 world champion Olga Kharlan of Ukraine, 15-12, in the quarterfinals. Muhammad, 30, also won bronze at the Orleans world cup.

After the Athens Olympics, Zagunis went on to defend her Olympic gold medal in 2008 at the Beijing Games, where she also won a team bronze medal. Her time at the top of the Olympic podium came to an end when she finished fourth at the London Games in 2012. The most decorated fencer in U.S. history now has her sights set on returning to the podium this summer in Rio.

The U.S. women’s saber team will compete in the team competition on Sunday.

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Mariel Zagunis

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