Zagunis arrives back in Portland with Olympic gold |

Zagunis arrives back in Portland with Olympic gold

Source: THE OREGONIAN By Wade Nkrumah

Mariel Zagunis landed at Portland International Airport this afternoon as a newly minted two-time Olympic gold medalist and with a hunger for “American food.”

In a brief interview with waiting members of the media in a passenger arrival area, the 23-year-old Beaverton fencer said one of her first tasks would be to eat a big deli-type sandwich. She also spoke glowingly of her recent Olympic experience and her hopes to win another Olympic fencing gold medal in 2012 in London.

Zagunis led a U.S. sweep in women’s saber in Beijing. She won her second-straight Olympic gold medal by convincingly beating U.S. teammates Rebecca Ward in the semifinals and Sada Jacobson in the final.

Zagunis also teamed with Ward — with whom she trains at Oregon Fencing Alliance — and Jacobson to win the bronze medal in women’s team saber. The Americans had been favored for the gold medal but were knocked out by Ukraine.

In 2004 in Athens, Zagunis became the first American fencer to win a gold medal in 100 years.

The last leg of her nearly 24-hour flight arrived shortly before 1 p.m. She was greeted at the airport by family and friends, and created a minor stir while patiently obliging a steady stream of autograph seekers.

The commotion piqued the curiosity of on-lookers waiting in nearby lines to get through security. Some of those waiting didn’t immediately recognize Zagunis — “Who is that?” they asked — but nodded and smiled when reminded of her Olympics feats.

In 2006, partway through her junior year in college, Zagunis put on hold her education at Notre Dame to devote herself to the 2008 games. She moved back to the Portland area to work daily with women’s saber coach Ed Korfanty, Oregon Fencing Alliance fencing master — and Ward.

Posted on: August 27, 2008