Mariel Zagunis is the most most decorated fencer in the history of USA Fencing!
Born in Portland, Oregon to Robert and Cathy Zagunis, Zagunis comes from a lineage of athletes. He parents were both collegiate rowers at Oregon State University and Connecticut College and competed with the U.S. rowing team at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.
Mariel's older brother, Marten, and younger brother, Merrick, are also fencers.
Mariel grew up in Beaverton, Oregon and attended Valley Catholic from kindergarten all the way to 12th grade. She picked up a saber for the first time at the age of 10 where her coach, Ed Korfanty, began instilling what would become gold medal values. He remains her coach to this day.
"I'm so proud to represent Oregon, especially Beaverton, Oregon," Zagunis said. "I'm so fortunate that our hotbed of fencing has been here my entire career."
The support from the Oregonian community and the Portland community has always been unwavering. -- Mariel Zagunis
She was the first American fencer to capture the Jr. World Cup Champion title (2002) and held it for three years in a row (2002, 2003, 2004).
In 2004, Zagunis won her first Olympic gold at the 2004 Athens Games in individual saber after she defeated Chinese fencer Xue Tan in the championship round, 15–9, becoming the first American to win an Olympic fencing gold medal in 100 years. She was 19 years old.
Zagunis defended her gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and led Team USA to a sweep after defeating teammate Sada Jacobson 15-8 in the gold medal match. Rebecca Ward won the bronze medal, defeating Sofiya Velikaya of Russia 15-14.
The lefty phenom has won two Olympic bronze medals in team events (2008 and 2016). In total, the Beaverton native is a four-time Olympian (2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016).
Zagunis was chosen to be the flag bearer for the United States at the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony in London.
She married Michael Swehla in 2013. In 2017, they welcomed Sunday Noelle Swehla to the world.
Here is a list of her full accomplishments, via TeamUSA:
- Four-time Olympian (2004, 2008, 2012, 2016); Four-time Olympic medalist (2 golds, 2 bronze)
- Rio 2016 Olympic Games, 9th (individual); bronze (team)
- London 2012 Olympic Games, 4th (individual)
- Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, gold (individual); bronze (team)
- Athens 2004 Olympic Games, gold (individual)
World Championship Experience
- Most recent: 2019 – 14th (individual)
- Years of participation: 2000-2017, 2019-present
- Medals: 14 (5 golds, 5 silvers, 4 bronzes)
- Gold – 2000 (team); 2005 (team); 2009 (individual); 2010 (individual); 2014 (team)
- Silver – 2004 (team); 2006 (individual, team); 2011 (individual); 2014 (individual)
- Bronze – 2011 (team); 2012 (team); 2013 (team); 2015 (team)
Other Career Highlights
- 2015 Pan American Games, gold (team); 8th (individual)
- 2011 Pan American Games, gold (individual, team)
Now, her sights are set on Tokyo.
“I definitely see Tokyo in my future,” Zagunis told the Portland Tribune. “I’m not fulfilled. That’s part of who I am. I always want to keep going. I always want to do more. It’s a blessing and a curse to feel dissatisfied with not winning all the time.”
Zagunis turns 35 in March and will be older than any U.S. Olympic fencer since the 1996 Atlanta Games.