Saber fencer Mariel Zagunis has a rich collection of medals from her history-making career, but until Saturday it had been a while since she added to it on the world cup circuit.
That changed when the four-time Olympian reached the world cup podium for the first time in three years and won her first world cup gold since Jan. 29, 2016, emerging victorious in Athens, Greece.
The most decorated U.S. fencer of all time, Zagunis faced off against an athlete whose career is just beginning for the gold medal. Hungary’s Liza Pusztai is a two-time world junior champion and the 2018 Youth Olympic Games gold medalist in saber fencing, but on Saturday the 18-year-old was no match for the four-time Olympic medalist.
Zagunis dropped the first two points then surged to an 8-2 lead. Soon it was 12-2 and, with Zagunis on the cusp of victory, Pusztai managed a trio of points, but it only delayed the inevitable. Zagunis prevailed, 15-6.
Zagunis defeated Hungary’s Anna Marton in the quarterfinals and then beat Misaki Emura of Japan in the semifinals, 15-8.
A two-time Olympic gold medalist, Zagunis is seeking her fifth consecutive trip to the Olympics this year. Having just celebrated her 35th birthday on Tuesday, she would be the oldest U.S. Olympic fencer since 1996.
Zagunis made her debut at the Olympic Games Athens 2004 at the age of 19, when she became the first U.S. athlete to win a gold medal in fencing in 100 years. She repeated the feat in 2008, and also has team bronze medals from 2008 and 2016.
Her last world cup medal was bronze at a competition in Yangzhou, China on March 24, 2017. She also won bronze at a grand prix tournament in May 2018.
This is her 38th career world cup medal and her 16th world cup gold.
Zagunis will lead the women's team on Sunday as they try to qualify for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.