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'Dame Marie' points her sabre at being the world's best fencer

by: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Two-time Olympic womens sabre champion Mariel Zagunis is still pointing toward the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, and isnt ruling out a run at the 2020 Olympics, either.This time, someone placed their wand on Mariel Zagunis and she was thrilled about it.

It was a gentle touch of the scepter last Friday by 2012 Rose Festival Queen Kate Sinnott that made Zagunis, a two-time Olympic women’s sabre champion, “Dame Marie” and an honorary member of the Royal Rosarians.

“You kneel before the Queen, and she says the magic words that make you a knight,” Zagunis says. “It was a lot of fun.”

Zagnuis, 28, also has been having fun at her real job. She has bounced back nicely after settling for fourth in the 2012 London Olympics.

She won back-to-back 2013 World Cups in Belgium and Italy and has had other top-three finishes, including a silver medal in her regular-season finale, a Grand Prix in China.

She leaves Saturday for the Pan-Am Championships in Colombia. She’ll be back June 23, and will begin preparing for the world championships (an event she has won twice) in August in Budapest, Hungary.

“I feel really great,” she says. “I got myself re-motivated after a post-Olympics break.”

The 2004 and 2008 Olympic gold medalist decided she wanted to compete four more years and go after another Olympics title in 2016 at Rio de Janeiro.

“Three years are going to fly by very, very quickly,” she says.

And, 2016 might not necessarily be her swan song.

“It’s very difficult for me to know what I want to do after I’m done fencing, because it’s been such a big part of my life,” she says. “It’s basically all I’ve ever known. So who knows? Maybe 2020 ... maybe my body will hold up, and I will go for that Olympics as well.

“My long-term plans are still to be the best fencer in the world, and I’m going to continue to work toward that each and every day, until I’m not fencing anymore.”

Zagunis also is making plans for a wedding — her own, Sept. 14, to Mike Swehla, also of Beaverton. Swehla attended Westview High; Zagunis went to Valley Catholic. But they didn’t live far from each other.

“We’ve known each other for a little over two years,” she says, “and it’s funny that we never ran into each other at any point, even though we had mutual friends and his mom and my dad’s wife used to work together.”

• Oregon Fencing Alliance, the Southwest Portland club that has produced Zagunis and numerous other top fencers, has another potential U.S. women’s sabre Olympic team member in the wings.

Zagunis says she expects big things from Sage Palmedo, 17, who helped the U.S. women’s sabre team win gold at the junior world championships in April.

“I’ve basically watched her grow up,” Zagunis says. “This year in particular, I’ve really seen the extra presence and extra confidence that you need come out in her.”

MASOLI• The fourth-string quarterback of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats has an uphill fight to stick with the Canadian Football League team.

But Jeremiah Masoli isn’t out of contention. The former Oregon Duck reportedly has been looking better in practice, as the Ti-Cats get ready for their preseason opener tonight at Montreal.

However, Masoli — who sat on the Edmonton Eskimos’ injured list all last season — still is well behind incumbent starter Henry Burris (ex-Temple) and two QBs who are expected to battle for the top backup spot, Dan LeFevour (ex-Central Michigan) and Brian Brohm (ex-Louisville), who spent a couple of years on the bench with the Green Bay Packers and Buffalo Bills.

Masoli, 24, tells reporters that the CFL is “real competitive,” more so than a lot of people in the United States realize.

On Wednesday, Hamilton released rookie wide receiver Justin Monahan from Portland State.

• The Big Sky Conference is concerned about marquee football programs (Georgia Southern and Appalachian State, to date) jumping from the FCS to the higher-level FBS — and how some FBS conferences (the Big Ten, so far) may choose not to play against FCS teams, such as Portland State.

Those games, as lopsided on the scoreboard as they might be, provide badly needed revenue. PSU, for example, is expected to receive about $400,000 for playing Cal on Sept. 7 — and the Vikings have major payday games rescheduled against Oregon State in 2014, Washington State in 2015 and Washington in 2016 (all could be bought out, if the Pac-12 also decides to play only FBS opponents).

One good bit of news for PSU and the Big Sky: the FCS playoffs are expanding from 20 to 24 teams. That means the 13-team Big Sky football might be in line more often for as many as four national playoff berths.

• The Big Sky is re-instituting men’s golf in 2015— but PSU is not planning to bring back the sport.

The Vikings’ first Big Sky title came in men’s golf in 1998, but the sport was dropped by a budget-conscious PSU and the conference after the 2002 season.

Only six schools (Idaho) North Dakota, Northern Colorado, Sacramento State, Southern Utah and Weber State) are on board to have Big Sky men’s golf in 2015, so adding the sport would give PSU a chance to enhance its lagging men’s athletic lineup (11th in the conference all-sports standings in 2012-13).

Title IX considerations, however, make adding a sixth men’s sport to the nine women’s sports at PSU problematic.

Happy birthday

June 16, 1946 — Rick Adelman, captain of the first Trail Blazers team in 1970-71, seven-year NBA guard and

June 16, 1954 — Dana Altman, Oregon Ducks men’s basketball coach (age 59).

June 16, 1965 — J.J. Birden, wide receiver from Lakeridge High and UO played seven NFL seasons (five with Kansas City, two with Atlanta), catching 244 passes for 3,441 yards (14.1 per catch) and 17 touchdowns (age 48).

June 15, 1977 — Michael Doleac, 6-11 center from Central Catholic High and University of Utah was a first-round draft pick (12th overall) by Orlando in 1998 and spent 10 years in the NBA, averaging 4.9 points and 3.3 rebounds for five teams (age 36).

June 15, 1983 — Derek Anderson, Carolina Panthers quarterback from Scappoose High and Oregon State (age 30)

Oregon sports history

June 14, 1990 — The Trail Blazers bow out of the NBA finals, losing Game 5 at home to Detroit 92-90. The Pistons swept three games in Portland, after splitting at home, to take the series 4-1. Portland led 90-83 with about two minutes remaining, but Clyde Drexler fouled out, and Vinnie Johnson hit the series-winning jumper with seven seconds to go. Detroit’s Isiah Thomas was finals MVP.

June 14, 1992 — The Blazers lose the NBA finals to the Chicago Bulls, falling 97-93 in Game 6 at Chicago.

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