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Zagunis leads U.S. clean sweep in sabre
USA vs USA fencing women's individual sabre

No American had won an Olympic fencing gold medal for 100 years when the Olympic Games of 2004 started in Athens. Mariel Zagunis launched a one-woman mission to change all of that. Zagunis has Olympic blood flowing through her veins. Her parents, both rowers, competed at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal and in Greece she finally put the United States back on top of the fencing podium with a surprise win.

The anthropology student hadn’t actually qualified for the Games and was only included in the field when Nigeria opted not to send their entrant. She subsequently cut a swathe through the draw and won the gold.

Four years later and Zagunis had a team world championship gold under her belt and was strongly fancied, along with a strong contingent of U.S. team mates, to retain her title. She had to come from behind in her second-round clash with Canadian Sandra Sessine, but she hit top gear and raced into the final, accounting for home hope Bao Yingying and team mate Rebecca Ward on the way.
The final saw her take on another team-mate, this time Sade Robertson, who was ranked above Zagunis and favoured by most pundits to triumph.

But Zagunis was having none of it, and her charging, attacking style at the Olympic Green Convention Centre made her a crowd favourite.

Under the watchful gaze of former U.S. President George H. W. Bush in the front row of the crowd, Zagunis released a yelp of delight, removed her mask and thrust her arms skywards as she clinched the decisive point for a 15-9 victory.

She dashed into the crowd to collect an American flag, bowed to all corners of the hall before kneeling down to kiss the piste. It was the first gold medal of the Beijing Olympics for the United States. Ward beat Russia’s Sofia Velikaya for the bronze to ensure the U.S. won a clean sweep of the medals.


43 Highlights

  • Opening Ceremony
  • Katerina Emmons - women’s 10m air rifle
  • Salukvadze, Pederina praised for gesture
  • Dutch end long wait for relay gold
  • Korean archery domination continues
  • Aussies edge Americans in scintillating relay
  • India's first individual gold medal
  • Coughlin again thwarts fast-finishing Coventry
  • Benjamin Boukpeti
  • Rice hits golden hat-trick in 4x200m relay
  • Phelps rewrites Olympic record books
  • China wins maiden team gymnastics gold
  • Steffen completes comeback with golden double
  • Andrunache emerges from Ignat’s shadow
  • The oldest winner of the women’s table tennis singles
  • Lightning Bolt electrifies Bird’s Nest
  • Roger Federer
  • British foursome continue Redgrave’s legacy
  • Zagunis leads U.S. clean sweep in sabre
  • Guo glitters in Water Cube
  • Rafael Nadal
  • Fraser leads unique Jamaican treble
  • Rebecca Romero
  • Reborn Taylor takes second hurdles title
  • Incredible Lezak puts Phelps on road to eight golds
  • Hoy joins cycling greats
  • Liukin follows in father’s footsteps
  • Jones heartbreak evokes Devers as Harper takes gold
  • IOC’s helping hand guides Nikpai to bronze
  • Bolt overcomes Johnson’s legendary 200m mark
  • Japan rock U.S. with softball win
  • Chausson, Strombergs grab first BMX golds
  • Campbell-Brown retains 200m crown
  • Steve Hooker
  • Jamaican foursome break world record
  • Perfect Walsh, May-Treanor star on the sand
  • Hellebaut raises the bar in battle with Vlasic
  • Korea ends baseball’s Olympic era with Cuban upset
  • Hungary secure stunning water polo hat-trick
  • Party atmosphere as curtain drawn on Beijing
  • Kanayeva waltzes to rhythmic gold
  • Mighty France thwart giantkillers Iceland
  • US restores basketball pride