It had been eight years since Mariel Zagunis won an Olympic medal.
Zagunis was handed a stunning defeat in the London individual sabre semifinals after leading 12-5 and went on to lose the bronze medal match to Ukranian Olga Kharlan.
Those were the first two individual Olympic losses of her career.
Even worse for Zagunis: there would be no chance for a team medal in sabre as it was not contested in 2012.
A chance to stand at the podium eluded Zagunis in the individual event again in Rio. She was eliminated in the Round of 16 by Russian fencer Ekaterina Dyachenko.
With this being Zagunis and the U.S.’ last chance at a fencing medal in these games, the Americans left it all on the piste as they defeated Italy 45-30.
Of course, she couldn’t have done it without her teammates.
Dagmara Wozniak, who had been the alternate on the bronze-winning U.S. team in Beijing, was particularly dominant through most of the competition and tied with Zagunis to lead the team in points as they both put up 15 against the Italians.
Ibtihaj Muhammad, who made history as the first American to wear a hijab in Olympic competition, added 10 points before she was subbed out for alternate Monica Aksamit who contributed 5. Aksamit will receive a medal since she competed in a bout.
The women’s team sabre event was introduced for the first time at the 2008 Games where Zagunis led the team to the bronze prize.
Zagunis becomes the first American fencer to earn a medal in three different Olympics. This is also her fourth career medal.