Mariel Zagunis
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Qualified athletes go into limbo with Tokyo postponement

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For the 76 U.S. athletes who had already qualified for the 2020 Olympics, a new waiting game has begun, and many of them are talking through their mixed emotions on social media.

Shooter Kayle Browning‘s thoughts played out in real time. She gave a glimpse of her new routine on YouTube (after tending to her dog, who had to go out) but didn’t know whether she would keep her spot on the team. She learned afterwards that USA Shooting intends to keep its qualified athletes on the team despite the postponement.

Fellow shooter Phillip Jungman also went from sadness to relief: “When I saw the news that the Olympics was postponed, my heart dropped a little. A few hours later @usashooting put out an official statement backing all of their athletes that had earned Olympic berths. I just wanted to take this moment to thank them for supporting us all in this time of so much uncertainty.”

LIST: U.S. athletes qualified for 2020 Olympics

Other athletes were relieved that the uncertainty of knowing whether they would have time to train was no longer a problem.

Modern pentathlete Samantha Achterberg: “Lots of mixed emotions, but a sense of relief in some ways.”

Fencer Mariel Zagunis, who has qualified for her fifth Olympics, quipped that she’s throwing herself a “pity party” but was “glad a decision was made sooner rather than later.”

“Disappointed that I won’t be able to go out and fence in the Olympics in 2020, but I’m relieved that the IOC is putting global health first,” said fellow fencer Alexander Massialias.

Several athletes sounded as determined as ever.

“News of the postponement of the Olympic Games means its time to adjust the goggles and refocus,” said triathlete Summer Rappaport.

“Let’s roll,” said sailor Paige Railey. “One more year to become stronger and healthier!”

“I’ve waited my whole life for this moment,” said marathoner Molly Seidel. “To make the @olympics safer for everyone I’m willing to wait a bit longer.”

“If these past years have taught me anything it is that I am capable of going through hell and high water for the sake of achieving the Olympic Dream!” said taekwondo athlete Paige McPherson.

Sailor Charlie Buckingham spared a thought for Olympic organizers:

” I can’t help but think of Japan and what they’ve endured to host the games this summer, only to be faced with the current global situation. To have responded the way they did so quickly is impressive and knowing their culture, next summer’s show will be even better.”

The U.S. softball team is adding one year to a 12-year wait since the sport was last contested at the Olympics in 2008.

“(N)othing has changed as far as the mindset, the work ethic or the goal that we have as a team,” said Valerie Arioto.

Swimmer Ashley Twichell, who had locked down a spot on the open-water team, supported the decision but expressed disappointment and urged “everyone right now to acknowledge whatever feelings they’re having – anxious, sad, confused, lonely, scared, isolated, stressed, frustrated, just to name a few – and know that they are validated.”

But Twichell also drew inspiration looking ahead: “The Olympics can wait, and they’ll continue to be the beacon of hope that they’ve always been, perhaps now more than ever.”

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Mariel Zagunis qualifies for fifth Olympic fencing team, first as a mom

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Mariel Zagunis, the most decorated U.S. fencer in history, is going to a fifth Olympics at age 35 — and her first since giving birth to daughter Sunday Noelle in October 2017.

Zagunis, who owns four combined individual Olympic and world sabre titles, qualified after a satisfying weekend of competition in Athens, site of her Olympic debut and breakthrough gold medal in 2004.

On Saturday, she won a World Cup event for the first time since Jan. 29, 2016 and since becoming a mom. Zagunis dominated, ceding fewer than 10 touches in all six of her bouts and winning half of them by 15-6 or better.

Then on Sunday, the U.S. clinched qualification for the Olympic sabre team event. That meant three U.S. women were guaranteed individual spots in Tokyo. Zagunis has enough U.S. ranking points to secure one of those spots well before a late April deadline.

Zagunis is in line to become the oldest U.S. Olympic fencer since 1996. The U.S. fencing record of six Olympic appearances is shared by Norman Cohn-Armitage and Jan York-Romary, according to Olympedia and the OlyMADMen.

Four U.S. fencers previously qualified for the Tokyo Games — Lee KieferEli DershwitzAlexander Massialas and Gerek Meinhardt — with plenty more to come in the next two months.

Zagunis, one of two U.S. fencers to win an Olympic gold medal, was unsure about continuing for another cycle after being eliminated in the round of 16 in Rio. Four months later, she committed to a Tokyo 2020 run.

“I’m not fulfilled,” Zagunis, the 2012 U.S. Olympic Opening Ceremony flag bearer, said in December 2016, according to the Portland Tribune. “That’s part of who I am. I always want to keep going. I always want to do more. It’s a blessing and a curse to feel dissatisfied with not winning all the time.”

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MORE: List of U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics

Lee Kiefer, first fencer to qualify for U.S. Olympic team, eyes another first in Tokyo

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If Lee Kiefer is going to become the first U.S. woman to earn an individual foil medal at the Olympics, she’s off to a strong start this year.

Kiefer became the first U.S. fencer to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic team as No. 1 in the national team standings, according to the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee.

Kiefer, 25, will go to her third Olympics. She reached the quarterfinals at London 2012 and the round of 16 at Rio 2016. Since, Kiefer made the quarterfinals of the last two world championships.

She’s been the top U.S. woman in foil for the last decade, a fixture in the top five of the world rankings for the last five years and became the first American to be ranked No. 1 in 2017.

But no U.S. woman has stood on an individual Olympic podium in foil, despite it being the longest-running women’s fencing event at the Games (since 1924). The U.S. earned a team foil silver at Beijing 2008 and made the podium of the last three world championships.

Kiefer married fellow Olympic fencer Gerek Meinhardt last year and is on leave from medical school at the University of Kentucky for the Olympic year. The wedding was at Keeneland, a famous horse-racing track in Lexington.

Other contenders to make the U.S. foil team include Olympic veterans Nicole Ross and Nzingha Prescod.

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MORE: List of U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics