Mariel Zagunis has every intention of qualifying for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 – a journey she is all too familiar with as it would mark her fifth Games. But this time the journey will be different.
The most decorated U.S. fencer in history announced Monday that she is pregnant. She and husband Mike Swehla, who married in 2013, are expecting their first child in October. Swehla is a firefighter in their home state of Oregon.
Zagunis, now 32, first made history at the Athens Games in 2004, when she went from not initially qualifying for the Olympic team to winning gold in women’s saber’s Olympic debut and becoming the first U.S. fencer to win gold in 100 years.
She went on to defend her Olympic title in 2008 in Beijing, where she also earned team bronze. After serving as Team USA’s Opening Ceremony flag bearer four years later in London, where she finished fourth individually, Zagunis returned for a fourth Games in Rio last year and claimed another team bronze.
She also has 13 senior world championship medals to her name – five individual and eight team.
After sitting out much of the 2016-17 season while she recovered from injuries, Zagunis returned at a world cup in late March – apparently while two months pregnant – and earned bronze at her first competition in seven months. It marked her 80th individual podium finish in international competition. She finished sixth the next week at a grand prix in Korea.
“As always, it’s important to take it one season at a time, and one competition at a time,” Zagunis told TeamUSA.org in March. “But my overall goal and expectation is to make the Olympic team for Tokyo 2020. I am fortunate enough to have great support from my sponsors and family in order to keep competing, fulfilling my dreams and making history.
“It’s a long way off and a lot has to happen before then, but I am now even more determined than ever to win an individual medal in Tokyo. We have team in Tokyo, too, so I would love to return to the podium with my teammates. There would be no greater feeling than to be on the Olympic podium again.”