[Photos: U.S. flag-bearer Mariel Zagunis]
"I'm extremely humbled by this incredible privilege," said Zagunis in a statement. "As an athlete, I can't imagine a higher honor than to lead Team USA into the Olympic Games, which are the pinnacle of sport and a platform for world peace. I am tremendously proud to represent my sport, our team and, most importantly, the United States of America."
Zagunis won gold in Athens after barely qualifying for the Games. It was the first U.S. gold in fencing in 100 years. In Beijing, she was seeded sixth and won gold again, giving the U.S. its first gold of the 2008 Olympics. This time around, Zagunis is going into her Aug. 1 saber competition as the favorite.
Earlier this month, she told Fourth-Place Medal she is proud to be an inspiration for young athletes.
"When I started [fencing], it happened to be by chance. I feel like a lot of my teammates, the same thing happened. They stumbled upon it. Since Athens and on, I've met so many young girls who said, I started fencing because of you, which is so cool. That's never happened for U.S. fencing before. To have us have so much success, only in that small Olympic window, it makes a difference. It's so great to meet these kids who have started because of us. Now, to be the inspiration for the future of U.S. fencing is a really cool feeling."
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