Team USA flag bearer dreams of owning a pig

Michael Sohn / AP file

This photo shows USA's Mariel Zagunis being thrown into the air after taking the gold medal in the women's individual sabre competition of the 2004 Olympic Games.

By Sarika Dani and Ian Sager

It's no secret that two-time Olympic gold medal fencer Mariel Zagunis, who has just been named flag bearer for Team USA, has her sights set on her third straight win. And now that she'll be carrying the stars and stripes as part of the Opening Ceremonies on Friday, she's also getting to fulfill a dream of many Olympians.

Earlier today, TODAY.com caught up with Zagunis, who may be known for her skills with a sword, but is also no slouch with a set of pruning shears.


The 27-year-old Oregon native has a backyard garden with a selection that rivals most neighborhood supermarkets.

“I grow rose, mint, dill, thyme, cilantro and basil…along with tomatoes, lettuce, zucchini, squash, sugar snap peas, beans and cucumbers,” Zagunis told TODAY.com.

Anthony Quintano / NBC News

For U.S. fencer Mariel Zagunis, life beyond the Olympics is as green as they come.

Despite the wide assortment of legumes and vegetables available at her fingertips, Zagunis has eyes on a larger – and more diverse – plot.

“I want chickens, but they aren’t allowed," she said. "I want a pig, too!”

Zagunis, the most-decorated fencer in U.S. fencing history, isn’t permitted to own either, but takes comfort in what she’s grown with her bare hands.

“It’s exciting to see your dedication to the land grow into something fruitful,” Zagunis said.

But Zagunis – ever-the competitor – has pursuits that extend beyond her backyard. If she weren't an Olympian, she would own or work in a restaurant, she said, although she acknowledges “that could be a lot of work.”  

Since women's individual sabre fencing made its Olympic debut in 2004, Zagunis is the first, and so far the only, athlete to hold the Olympic title. Going forward, she hopes to one day give back to the sport that she says has given her “so much.”

“I want to be involved with kids, particularly young female fencers, promoting good skills and proper body image,” she said, and plans to do this through her newly created foundation, the Mariel Zagunis Women’s Sabre Fund.

After more than a decade on top, and with interests as diverse as they come, don’t count out Mariel Zagunis – she may just nuture the next crop of U.S. fencing stars. 

Sarika Dani and Ian Sager, TODAY.com's editors at the Olympics, are doing their best to stay in shape while in London. Here's proof.

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