“The Queen” Of Fencing Goes For A Third Gold Medal

American fencer Mariel Zagunis will shoot for her third consecutive Olympic gold medal in saber today.

American fencer Mariel Zagunis will shoot for her third consecutive Olympic gold medal in saber today.
(Photo credit: Harry How, Getty Images)

If there is one name in fencing you should know it’s that of saber fencer Mariel Zagunis.

A two-time gold medal winner in the 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing Olympics, Zagunis – who served as the flag bearer for the United States during the London Opening Ceremony – is looking to complete a “hat trick” today in London.

Why is she considered “the queen” of U.S. Fencing? When competing in the Athens game in 2004, Zagunis became the first U.S. fencer in 100 years to win an Olympic gold medal, and to win a second gold medal was unheard of for U.S. Fencing. Yet just four years later, she did so. Not to mention her fencing resume is one that would impress anyone. The 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2005 FIE Senior World Cup Champion are just a few titles to name under her belt.

Winning a third time will be tough for Zagunis, as her competition in the saber event is as fierce as she is. She will compete against the current world champion, Sofiya Velikaya of Russia, who actually beat Zagunis last year for the title by one point. Zagunis will also have to deal with Olga Kharlan of the Ukraine, who has been a three-time European champion.

Another powerful competitor battling for the gold is four-time African champion Azza Besbes of Tunisia, who was the first African and Arab woman to reach the fencing quarterfinals at the Olympics in 2008.

To watch Zagunis battle for the gold medal today, and for all the latest news on the U.S. Fencing team, check out NBC’s fencing page.

Olympic Fencing 101: Don’t Call It a “Sword”

Editor’s Note:  Kent Moore is a public relations professional from California. He has great expertise in fencing, and gladly offered to write a guest post on the intricacies of Olympic fencing.

If you’re like me and love sports, then you and the rest of the world are watching the 2012 Olympic Games in London. For some, it’s a chance to check out sports they have never seen or heard of. In the case of fencing, probably a majority of you are in that category. Being a fencer myself, who has competed both in national and state competitions, below are the basics of what you should know about fencing for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Fencing Basics

I could write a book about the fencing basics, but the quick version is that fencing has three different styles of competition:  foil, epee, and saber. All three weapons have different rules and target areas. Each match, or “bout,” as it’s called, is played to 15 touches. The bout takes place on a “strip,” measuring 14 meters by 2 meters, where the fencers can only move forwards and backwards. A large fencing competition, like the Olympics, usually has both individual competitions and team competitions, which consists of three fencers for each team.

USA Fencers

While countries like France and Italy have produced some of the best fencers in the world, anyone who knows the sport well is aware that the U.S. is now finally being able to give European fencers a run for their money. For instance, this past Saturday, foil fencer Lee Kiefer took fifth place in women’s foil, which was the best result for a women’s individual foil fencer since 1956.

Though as we look towards the rest of the games and you find yourself wanting to watch a spectacular fencing bout, I would highly suggest watching both the women’s saber and men’s foil individual competitions. For women’s saber, Team USA has two-time gold winner Mariel Zagunis. Besides a laundry list of wins and accomplishments, which you can read here, Mariel is the Americans’ best hope for obtaining a gold medal in fencing. While in men’s foil, Team USA has foil fencer Race Imboden. Ranked number one in the nation and fifth in the world, this red headed youth is a force not to be underestimated. Being his first Olympics, I believe he is going to give the world a show they soon won’t forget.

When To Watch

If you’re ready for some swashbuckling action then check out the NBC schedule here, and for more information about US fencing, check out www.usfencing.org.