Mariel Zagunis earned a women’s saber fencing world cup bronze medal Saturday in Yangzhou, China, at her first competition since the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
The bronze marked the 80th time in her career that Zagunis has claimed an individual podium finish at an official international competition.
A two-time Olympic gold medalist, Zagunis now owns 37 world cup medals to go along with five from world championships, 10 from zone championships and 26 from grand prix competitions.
Ranked No. 8 in the world, Zagunis opened with a pair of straightforward victories over Marino Kimura of Japan, 15-5, and Fu Ying of China, 15-7. Next up was France’s Margaux Rifkiss, ranked 57th in the world. Zagunis, a four-time Olympian who helped contributed to the team bronze at the Rio 2016 Games, scored a 15-10 decision in their first meeting ever, moving into a quarterfinal encounter with U.S. teammate Monica Aksamit.
At No. 30 in the world, Aksamit would be the highest-ranked fencer Zagunis would face in the tournament, but the Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 Olympic champion remained undefeated in the fourth bout between the two to advance to the semifinals by a 15-10 margin.
Although ranked No. 66 in the world, Sara Balzer of France proved to be more than Zagunis could handle Saturday, taking a 15-6 decision in only the second meeting between the two. Zagunis had won the prior meeting 15-9 at a world cup tournament in Chicago in May 2014. Balzer took the tournament silver after falling to teammate Manon Brunet in the gold-medal match.
Team USA had three fencers in the top 15 in China, with Aksamit finishing seventh and Dagmara Wozniak 15th.