LONDON -- Mariel Zagunis couldn't explain how a big lead in the Olympic semifinals turned into an even-bigger collapse. She couldn't avoid a similar fate in the bronze-medal match, either. And afterward, it even took her a few moments to remember she was in London.
"I guess I'm just in disbelief," Zagunis said.
With good reason -- the face of U.S. fencing and the American flag bearer at the opening ceremony last week not only was denied a third straight gold medal, but she's going home without any medal at all.
Zagunis dropped her last two matches in the women's sabre event on Wednesday, after wasting a 12-5 edge over Kim Jiyeon of South Korea during a 15-13 semifinal loss. Not long afterward, and still reeling, Zagunis gave up nine of the final 11 points to fall 15-10 to Olga Kharlan of Ukraine in the bronze bout.
Gold, gone. Bronze, bye.
For Zagunis, it was an unimaginable fate.
"Even now, it's all pretty surreal," Zagunis said.
It was a double-dose of coming close for the Americans, who won six medals in fencing in Beijing. Seth Kelsey lost the bronze-medal match in men's epee to South Korea's Jung Jinsun, 12-11 in extra time.
Kelsey walked away from the piste with no regrets, after never before winning an Olympic individual match. Zagunis left in a far different mindset.
"And now I don't have a medal, which is really strange," Zagunis said. "I've never been in this position before at the
South Korea's Kim went on to win the women's sabre gold over Russia's Sofya Velikaya, while Ruben Limardo of Venezuela took the men's epee gold-medal match against Bartosz Piasecki of Norway.