LONDON -- Mariel Zagunis may lack the single-name fame of LeBron, Serena, and some of her United States Olympic team counterparts, but judging by her latest honor, the two-time gold-medal winning fencer is at least as respected.
By a vote of her teammates, Zagunis was selected late Wednesday as the flag-bearer to lead the 529-member US delegation in Friday's Opening Ceremonies.
"It means a lot to be picked by my fellow athletes,'' said Zagunis, who lives in Beaverton, Ore. "It's not just some random committee that's thinking somebody's deserving. The athletes are actually picking who they want to be at the Opening Ceremony. I can't believe I'm going to be the one who has that opportunity."
Zagunis, whose gold medal at the 2004 Athens Games was the first for a US fencer in 100 years, finished atop the podium again in Beijing four years ago. She is the first fencer to be the US flag-bearer since Janice Lee Romary did the honors in 1968.
"To be that representative for all of Team USA means so much to me. It's a huge, huge honor and it also goes along with so much that has gone on this year,'' Zagunis said.
Zagunis said the honor had additional meaning to her because this year marks the 40th anniversary of Title IX. She noted that there are more women than men on the US team for the first time.
"I am where I am today because of the women who paved the way," Zagunis said. "They were the ones who got our rights and I was born in the right generation to have these opportunities to be there and available. I just think you have to fight in training and to be the best in your sport, but there was no fighting to have that opportunity."