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US Fencing's Mariel Zagunis finishes third in voting for USOC Female Athlete of the Month for August after winning gold and bronze in Beijing

01/08/2009, 4:06am CST
By No Author

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Sept. 25, 2008) - Fresh off of her gold and bronze medal performances at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, U.S. Fencing's Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.) was honored by the United States Olympic Committee with a third place finish in the USOC Female Athlete of the Month voting for August.  Zagunis place third behind gymnast Nastia Liukin (Parker, Texas) and swimmer Natalie Coughlin (Vallejo , Calif. ) in the voting for the female athlete of the month category.  Michael Phelps(Baltimore, Md.) took top honors as male athlete of the month and the U.S. Men's Olympic Volleyball teamreceived Team of the Month honors for its gold medal performance.

Zagunis successfully defended the gold medal she won at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece in the women's saber individual competition and also won a bronze medal in the inaugural Olympic women's saber team competition with fellow teammates Sada Jacobson (Dunwoody, Ga.) and Becca Ward (Portland, Ore.).  Zagunis led a historic sweep of the three individual medals for women's saber by the U.S. as Jacobson won silver and Ward captured the bronze.  It marked the first time a country has swept the medals in an individual fencing event since Germany did it in women's foil at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea.  Zagunis's gold was the first gold medal won by a U.S. athlete at the 2008 Olympic Games and the three medals won by Zagunis, Jacobson and Ward were the first and only three medals won by the U.S. on the opening day of competition.

Olympic Champion gymnast Liukin, who joins Mary Lou Retton (1984) and Carly Patterson (2004) as the only U.S. women to win an Olympic all-around title, won Athlete of the Month honors for her historic performances at the Olympic Games. When Liukin finished first in Beijing's all-around competition, it marked the first time the U.S. has won consecutive gold medals in any gymnastics event.  Liukin earned the most medals of any female gymnast at the 2008 Olympic Games with five: one gold (all-around ); three silver (team, balance beam and uneven bars); and one bronze (floor exercise). She matched the U.S. gymnastics record of five medals at one Olympic Games set by Retton in 1984 and matched by Shannon Miller in 1992 while surpassing the four medals won by her father and coach, Valeri, when he represented the Soviet Union in the 1988 Olympic Games (two gold an d two silver).

Coughlin, runner-up to Liukin in the voting, made history of her own at the Beijing Olympic Games by becoming the first American woman to win six medals in a single Olympiad. Included in her Beijing medal haul is the gold medal in the 100m backstroke, making her the first woman to win consecutive Olympic titles in that event, two silver medals (400m free relay and 400m medley relay) and three bronze medals (200m IM, 100m free and 800m free relay). Coughlin set five American records in China along with an Olympic record. Overall, she now owns several American, Olympic and world records along with 11 Olympic medals (three gold, four silver and four bronze) from her appearances in the Athens and Beijing Games.

The most historic performance by any single athlete in Olympic Games history came from Michael Phelps. He won a record eight gold medals: 400 meter individual medley (world record), 400m free relay (WR), 200m free (WR), 200m Fly (WR), 800m free relay (WR), 200m IM (WR), 100m Fly (Olympic record) and 400m medley relay (WR), more than any other athlete at a single Olympic games. En route to becoming the most decorated Olympian in history, with 14 career Olympic gold medals and two bronze medals from Athens , Phelps set seven world records, eight American records and eight Olympic records at the Water Cube in Beijing .

Highlights of Phelps' Games include: his victory by one one-hundredth of a second in the 100m fly to earn his seventh gold medal, the 400m free relay team that came from behind to overtake France and win the gold by .08 seconds and the exhausting schedule he faced to win each gold - 17 races throughout the nine-day competition.

The Team of the Month honors went to the U.S. Men's Olympic Volleyball Team (8-0) based on their courageous gold medal performance at the Olympic Games. The U.S. men's team had to play its first three Olympic matches without its head coach, Hugh McCutcheon (Christchurch, New Zealand ), whose in-laws were attacked while sight-seeing in China . Despite the tremendous challenges, the Americans advanced to the semifinals and beat Russia , a team it had not beaten since 2004. In the gold medal match, the U.S. defeated 2004 Olympic Champion Brazil in four sets 20-25, 25-22, 25-21, 25-23.

For his contributions to the gold-medal winning team, Clay Stanley ( Honolulu , Hawaii ) was named the most valuable player, best scorer and best setter of the Olympic tournament. The other members of the team are: Lloy Ball (Woodburn, Ind.), Sean Rooney (Wheaton, Ill.), David Lee (Alpine, Calif.), Rich Lambourne (Tustin, Calif.), Reid Priddy (Richmond, Va.), Ryan Millar (Palmdale, Calif.), Riley Salmon (League City, Texas), Tom Hoff (Park Ridge, Ill.), Kevin Hansen (Newport Beach, Calif.), Gabe Gardner (San Clemente, Calif.) and Scott Touzinsky (St. Louis, Mo.).

Wrestler Henry Cejudo( Colorado Springs , Colo. ) finished secondbehind Phelps on the men's side. At 21 years old, Cejudo became the youngest U.S. wrestler to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games when he took the top spot at 55 kg/121 lbs. in men's freestyle wrestling.

Basketball standout Dwayne Wade ( Chicago , Ill. ) finished third in the balloting. After missing large portions of the 2006-07 and 2007-08 NBA seasons due to shoulder and knee injuries, Wade rebounded to help the 2008 U.S. Olympic Men's Basketball Team (8-0) take the gold medal. He averaged a team best 16.0 ppg., while also adding 4.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 2.3 steals, and shooting 67.1 percent from the field overall, 47.1 percent from 3-point.  He did so coming off the bench and averaging just 18.8 minutes a game.

Wade scored a game high 27 points on 9-of-12 shooting (4-7 3-point) and added 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 4 steals in 27 minutes of action in the USA 's 118-107 win over Spain in the gold medal game. He finished the '08 Olympic Games ranked among all players ninth in scoring, fourth in field goal percentage, tied for fifth in steals, and 12th for 3-point percentage.  He also led the USA to a 5-0 mark in the USA Basketball Senior National Team Tour, prior to the Games, averaging a team leading 18.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.2 steals while playing just 18.0 minutes a game. Additionally, he shot 72.3 percent from the field, including 71.4 percent from 3-point.

In capturing its fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal - something no other women's traditional team sport has accomplished - the 2008 U.S. Women's Olympic Basketball Team (8-0) blew away their competition by an average margin of victory of 37.6 points a game, which helped secure a second place finish in the team voting. The eight wins extended the USA 's Olympic winning streak to 33 games, dating back to 1992 bronze-medal victory over Cuba , and marked the USA 's third straight victory over Australia in the Olympic gold-medal game.

Making the USA 's dominating gold-medal run even more impressive was the fact that the U.S. had limited time to train together. Prior to its first game on Aug. 9, the team had nine days of practice together as a full 12-member unit. Three were at Stanford University July 27-29; the squad had one practice and three exhibition victories, capturing the gold medal at the FIBA Diamond Ball Tournament in Haining , China , Aug. 2-5; and a pair of practices in Beijing Aug. 7-8.

Members of the team are: Seimone Augustus (Baton Rouge, La.), Sue Bird (Syosset, N.Y.), Tamika Catchings (Duncanville, Texas), Sylvia Fowles (Miami, Fla.), Kara Lawson (Alexandria, Va.), Lisa Leslie (Hawthome, Calif.), DeLisha Milton-Jones (Riceboro, Ga.), Candace Parker (Naperville, Ill.), Cappie Pondexter (Chicago, Ill.), Katie Smith (Logan, Ohio), Diana Taurasi (Chino, Calif.) and Tina Thompson (Los Angeles, Calif.).

Phelps, Garret Weber-Gale( Milwaukee , Wis. ), Cullen Jones ( Irvington , N.J. ) and Jason Lezak ( Irvine , Calif. ) helped the Men's 400 Meter Freestyle Relay grab third place in the Team of the Month category.In their victory at the 2008 Olympic Games, the quartet broke the world record by four seconds with a time of 3:08.24, edging runner-up France by eight-hundredths of a second. The finish was the closest 400-meter relay in Olympic history and the second-closest Olympic relay of any distance. Phelps swam the lead-off leg, where he broke the American record in the 100m free, Weber-Gale swam the second leg, Jones the third and Lezak the anchor leg, with an amazing comeback to beat French swimmer Alain Bernard in the last 10 meters after diving in the water more than a half second behind Bernard. Lezak swam the fastest 100-meter relay split in world history at 46.06 seconds.



1. Nastia Liukin, Gymnastics

2. Natalie Coughlin, Swimming

3. Mariel Zagunis, Fencing


1. Michael Phelps, Swimming

2. Henry Cejudo, Wrestling

3. Dwayne Wade, Basketball


1. U.S. Men's Olympic Team, Volleyball

2. U.S. Women's Olympic Team, Basketball

3. Men's 400 Meter Freestyle Relay, Swimming

Tag(s): News  Mariel Zagunis