Pursuit of Perfection: Mariel Zagunis
The double gold medallist from the United States is looking forward to her third Olympic Games in London next year
How is your training progressing for London 2012?
Training for London is coming along great. Although the Games are less than a year and a half away, I still try not to think about them too much. For now, I am focusing on the World Championships in Sicily in October. I know that once it is actually the year 2012, I will start to focus fully on the Olympic Games.
What are you most looking forward to about the 2012 Games?
I have been lucky to have already been to two Games that contrasted greatly from each other: Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008). I am most excited to see what London does differently and how it incorporates the country’s culture, as past Olympic Games have done.
What do you think of London as a city?
I have only ever had a three-hour tour of London; it was one afternoon when we were there for a competition. I know it is a city rich in history and I am looking forward to learning about it all while I am there.
Who will be your main rivals for the gold medal in London?
Fencing is a very difficult competition because our event is all in one day and if you lose, you are out. So you really need to be ready on the day of competition, and you never know who will be having an ‘on’ day.
How did you get started in your sport?
When my older brother was about 10 years old, he really wanted to sword fight because of what he saw in films on television. So my mum found a fencing class and signed him up. I started fencing when I was 10 too and immediately fell in love with it! If it wasn’t for my brother wanting to fence, I am not sure I would have ever thought of doing it myself, since fencing is a relatively obscure sport in the US.
What are your memories of Beijing?
I remember putting a lot pressure on myself leading up to Beijing as I was the reigning Olympic champion. However, I wasn’t producing good results that season and the media focus was on other fencers. In the last two rounds I had to fence against my US team-mates, which was difficult because we know each other so well. But I was able to beat them both soundly and I remember thinking, “I did it!” My reaction was disbelief and tears of happiness.
Who were your Olympic heroes when you were growing up?
Both of my parents were on the 1976 US Olympic rowing team so ever since I can remember I always wanted to be an Olympian, just like them. Once I found fencing and realised that I was good at it, I knew that it was the sport that would take me to the Olympic Games. My inspiration came from my parents who supported me unconditionally and believed in me from the very beginning.
What are your own Olympic memories so far?
Being an Olympian is something that is so special and unique. I have so many wonderful memories including walking in the opening and closing ceremonies, staying in the Olympic Village, and of course, winning my medals and hearing the national anthem. Apart from that, just meeting lots of athletes from other countries, enjoying the sights of the city and being part of a historic event like the Olympic Games is something one can never forget.
What music do you listen to? Do you use social media?
To unwind I like to stay active outside of the gym by going for hikes, running, playing tennis and soccer, yoga, and I’ve recently started to enjoy Zumba classes. I have a Facebook fan page – www.facebook.com/marielzagunis – and encourage people to please join! I usually prefer to listen to pop music before a competition to get me pumped up; right now my favourite artists are Maroon 5, Adele, and Da Natural.
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