Dan Murphy | Wednesday, August 27, 2008
The Blue and Gold got a little bit more gold this summer when three athletes with Notre Dame ties brought home first-place medals from the Beijing Olympics.
Junior fencer Mariel Zagunis and alumnae soccer players Shannon Boxx (’99) and Kate Markgraf (’98) all won the second gold medals of their Olympic careers this August for the United States.
“The Olympics are a great adventure, it’s a very exciting time,” Irish fencing coach Janusz Bednarski said.
Zagunis became the first U.S. athlete to win a 2008 gold when she defeated fellow American Sada Jacobson in the women’s sabre event. She also added a bronze medal to her two golds – the first of which came at the 2004 games in Greece – in the team sabre event a few days later.
Zagunis has already racked up All-America honors at Notre Dame as well as winning a national championship in 2006.
Boxx and Markgraf (formerly Kate Sobrero) also won a national championship with the Irish in 1995. Both women played all 120 minutes in the overtime finals match against Brazil.
“I don’t think we ever doubted [we would win the gold], but we just didn’t think about it,” Markgraf said to USSoccer.com following the win.
On their road to the finals, the U.S. also took down Canada in a 2-1 quarterfinal match. The game featured four former Irish players with alums Candace Chapman (’06) and Melissa Tancredi (’05) playing for the Canadian side.
“We’re very proud of all four of them,” Notre Dame soccer coach Randy Waldrum said. “It shows you that ND has been a women’s soccer power for the past 15 years and it’s great to be a part of that.”
Waldrum coached both Canadian players but Boxx and Markgraf graduated before he took over as head coach for the Irish in 2000.
Boxx served up the game-winning assist on a header play the overtime win to the United States.
“Amy [Rodriguez] got it in the corner and just laid it back and I was wide open,” she said immediately following the game. “I knew Natasha [Kai] was in there, so if I could get that cross in behind the back four she could head it in.”
Along with Zagunis and the foursome of soccer players, an additional five current or former ND athletes competed in the Beijing Games.
Junior Kelley Hurley and freshman Gerek Meinhardt joined Zagunis on the U.S. Fencing team. Meinhardt, 18, was the youngest male fencer in the Olympics by nearly five years. All three Irish fencers are projected to be major forces on the collegiate level this year and are hoping that their Olympic experience will take them to the next level.
“Any time you go to the Olympics there are hopes that you come back better,” Bednarski said. “It is a very stressful competition so it really helps on the mental level.”
Former track standouts Selim Nurudeen (’05) and Thomas Chamney (’07) competed for Nigeria and Ireland, respectively.
Nurundeen ran a personal best 13.58 in the 110-meter hurdles to advanced to the second round but did not make it any further.