The opening ceremonies for the London Olympics are Friday, and many countries have already chosen their flag bearers. Who will the U.S. choose? Mariel Zagunis, an all-world fencer.
Zagunis won gold in the 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing Olympics in the individual sabre competition. She is only the second American ever to have won a gold medal in Olympic fencing. She is also the betting favorite to win the event again this summer.
She has won eight fencing world champions medials.
Many thought Michael Phelps or another household name would earn the honor. However, while Zagunis isn’t as well known as Venus Williams or Natalie Coughlin, she is still a Team USA legend.
Since becoming the first U.S. fencer to win gold at an Olympic Games in 100 years, Zagunis has been virtually unstoppable. The top-ranked women's saber fencer in the world, Zagunis won gold as a 19-year-old at the Athens Games in 2004 and went on to defend her title in Beijing before taking the individual Senior World Championship titles in 2009 and 2010. Zagunis closed out the 2011 season with a silver medal at the Senior Worlds to finish the season as the top-ranked fencer in the world for the third straight season. This year, Zagunis has held onto her position as the No. 1 fencer in the world after eight podium wins during the nine-event international season.
Zagunis is the third fencing athlete to serve as flag bearer. Norman Armitage carried the flag in both 1952 and 1956, and Janice Lee Romary held the honor in 1968.
Let's take a look back at past flag bearers.
1906: Matthew Halpin – Team Manager (right)
1908: Ralph Rose – Athletics, Tug of War
1912: George Bonhag – Athletics (far right)
1920: Pat McDonald – Athletics (far right)
1924: Taffy Abel – Ice Hockey
1928: Godfrey Dewey – President of Lake Placid Organizing Committee (far left)
1932 (winter): Billy Fiske – Bobsled (driver of sled)
1932 (summer): Morgan Taylor – Athletics
1936 (winter): Rolf Monsen – Cross Country Skiing, Ski Jumping, Nordic Combined
1936 (summer): Al Jochim – Gymnastics
1948 (winter): Jack Heaton – Skeleton, Bobsled
1948 (summer): Ralph Craig – Athletics
1952 (winter): James Bickford – Bobsled
1952 (summer): Norman Armitage – Fencing
1956 (winter): James Bickford – Bobsled
1956 (summer): Norman Armitage – Fencing (on far left)
1960 (winter): Don McDermott – Speed Skating
1960 (summer): Rafer Johnson – Athletics
1964 (winter): Bill Disney – Speed Skating
1964 (summer): Parry O’Brien – Athletics
1968 (winter): Terry McDermott – Speed Skating
1968 (summer): Janice Romary – Fencing (sitting in middle)
1972 (winter): Dianne Holum – Speed Skating
1972 (summer): Olga Fikotova – Athletics
1976 (winter): Cindy Nelson – Alpine Skiing
1976 (summer): Gary Hall – Swimming
1984 (winter): Frank Masley – Luge
1984 (summer): Ed Burke – Athletics
1988 (winter): Lyle Nelson – Biathlon
1988 (summer): Evelyn Ashford – Athletics
1992 (winter): Bill Koch – Cross Country Skiing
1992 (summer): Francie Larrieu Smith – Athletics
1994: Cammy Myler – Luge
1996: Bruce Baumgartner – Wrestling
1998: Eric Flaim – Speed Skating
2000: Cliff Meidl – Canoeing
2002: Amy Peterson – Short-Track Speed Skating
2004: Dawn Staley – Basketball
2006: Chris Witty – Speed Skating, Cycling
2008: Lopez Lomong – Athletics
2010: Mark Grimmette – Michigan Luge
2012: Mariel Zagunis – Fencing