NOTRE DAME, Ind. — On March 8, appropriately International Women’s Day, Mariel Zagunis became the third Notre Dame fencing alumni to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It will be Zagunis’ fifth appearance in the Olympic Games, and her first as a mom after giving birth to daughter Sunday Noelle in 2017.
Zagunis competed at Notre Dame for two seasons — as a freshman in 2005 and as a sophomore in 2006 — before leaving midway through junior season, in spring of 2007, to turn professional. However, in just two seasons she left her mark on the program as she was the 2005 NCAA Championship runner-up in individual sabre and then went on to win the 2006 NCAA individual title, finishing her collegiate career with a 75-3 record. She also helped the Irish claim the NCAA Team Championship in 2005.
On the international stage, Zagunis has thrived her entire life, leading her to become the most decorated U.S. fencer. Her first Olympic appearance came in 2004 at the age of 19, when she was upgraded from a replacement athlete and went on to become the first U.S. fencer in 100 years to claim a gold medal. She successfully defended that gold medal in 2008 and also won team bronze medals in 2008 and 2016. Other major accomplishments include becoming the third fencer (first since 1968) and sixth woman ever to be the U.S. Olympic flag bearer (2012) and the second U.S. fencer to win an FIE World Cup season points title (2006). She is currently ranked No. 2 in the U.S. and No. 9 in the world in women’s sabre fencing.
Zagunis joins Lee Keifer (‘17) and Gerek Meinhardt (‘14) as the three Irish fencers to qualify for the 2020 Olympics so far. Keifer was a four-time NCAA Foil Champion (2013-15, 2017) at Notre Dame and in 2017 became the first U.S. woman to earn a No. 1 world ranking in foil fencing. This will be her third Olympic appearance. Meinhardt (2010, 2014) was a two-time NCAA Foil Champion with the Irish and is currently ranked No. 3 in the world in men’s foil fencing. This will be his fourth Olympic appearance.