Defending USA Fencing’s Greatest Champion: Writer @mikewiseguy and his hatchet job on @marielzagunis in the @washingtonpost

First, congratulations to Mariel Zagunis and Seth Kelsey on making it to the final 4 of the London Olympics yesterday and to the medalists for putting on a great show.   Fencing has come along way in the past 8 years.

I wanted to address an article today in the Washington Post by writer Mike Wise titled Mariel Zagunis loses her fencing semifinal bout, and the Olympic Spirit that was about as critical a piece I’ve read on an athlete since Lebron James said he was “taking his talents to South Beach.”

I’m competing tomorrow, but was so bothered by its contents that I just needed to respond.    So, this will be brief but to the point.

Mariel Zagunis was selected as our flag bearer because for her career she has been a role model, an Olympic Champion and a great representative for our sport and the Olympic movement.    Yesterday, she carried more pressure and expectations into that fencing tournament than probably any other fencer in US history times two.   She was trying to win a gold medal for the 3rd straight Olympics, a feat that not many Olympians in any sport have accomplished.

Unfortunately she came up short, but we’re all proud of her.

Mr Wise: Maybe she didn’t respond to defeat to your liking, but she didn’t make excuses, throw her equipment, curse anyone out or do anything but respond as best she could to an emotionally challenging situation.     I have seen far worst displays from athletes and this one certainly didn’t warrant the zeal to which you attacked her in your article.

It is legitimate to criticize athletes for their behavior (yes, even fencers), but your article was a personal attack.  The Washington Post should know better and this belonged more in an “OP-ED” section that a sports section.

To quote a bit from Mike Wise in the article:

There goes the emotional sitdown with Costas. The brainless chit-chat in the morning with Matt Lauer and a cereal-box cover are also off the table.

Say buh-bye, America. Mariel Zagunis’s Q-rating just left the building.   Thanks for carrying the Stars and Stripes into the Opening Ceremonies, Miss Flag Bearer. Now pack your swords and go home for four years. We’ll call you before we get to Rio.

Really? This is not journalism.

Fencing is a great sport and Mariel Zagunis is a great champion.  Whether people are writing about it or not over the next 3 years, she’ll be working hard to achieve her goals while conducting herself as a role model and contributing to our society.   She pursues excellence not for the Bob Costas sit down or the Wheaties box, but because she is trying to be the best she can be.    And in the end, that IS the Olympic spirit.

PS Don’t mess with the fencing team.   We have swords.(and twitter) :)

37 Comments on “Defending USA Fencing’s Greatest Champion: Writer @mikewiseguy and his hatchet job on @marielzagunis in the @washingtonpost

  1. Spot-on, Tim. Until this week, Mariel was the only woman _ever_, in the world, to win a gold medal in women’s sabre. Unimaginable pressure. She’s a champion and a fighter, and THIS American is glad to have her represent me in London.

  2. While my credentials may not be as lofty as Mr. Wise’s, I am a journalist of some repute. I found this to be one of the most needlessly nasty articles I’ve read and almost sadistic toward not only Ms. Zagunis but also to the sport of fencing. I know he’s a columnist and it’s his job to stir the pot, but seriously I want to know why he trashed a stellar athlete. Glad you responded Tim, but this article deserves a harsh response from all responsible sports journalists…even columnists.

  3. Well said. MZ is a champion fencer and handled her loss with grace. She fought well and I’m looking forward to her return at Rio.

  4. Tim,

    Thank you for writing this. Wise’s article was completely uncalled for and, to be put it, downright mean. There is no excuse to attack someone when they are down, especially someone like Ms. Zagunis who has represented our country so well. And as a country we should be rallying behind her, not criticizing her for her faults. I hope more people read your response.

    Anyway, there was one part of his article that rubbed me the wrong way: “That is, no one but fencers care about fencing after the Olympics are over”.

    Definitely not true. I am currently not a fencer (granted, I fenced foil and then sabre for one year, but stopped to focus on Wushu in high school and college), but after watching the fencing events live on NBC this year, I can say that I am so much more back into the sport than I ever was (and after following the events every day I regret not keeping up with it). I’m still nursing a torn ACL from a couple years back, but the Olympic fencing events have actually inspired me to pick up my sword again. And it’s not just me — I’ve actually won some fencing converts from among my friends.

    I only mention this because I know how much you have done individually for increasing awareness of fencing, and to let you know that whatever crap Wise says has no merit. Thank you for everything you do.

    Good luck in Sabre tomorrow!

    Nick, a new fan

  5. Tim,
    Great response! Thank you for taking the lead on this! I have never been more disgusted with an article. Mariel is our Olympic hero and ambassador!

    Keeth

  6. Pingback: Anybody see this mean-spirited hack job about MZ

  7. Mr. Wise you have the right to express your opinions but I believe you are wrong about Mariel Zagunis and fencing. As the mother of a young female fencer, there is no better role model for my daughter to look up to. Fencing is a very difficult sport that requires dedication, hours and hours spent training, let alone driving to our club and flying to tournaments across the country. As parents we struggle to afford the cost of fencing. Yet when we see someone like Mariel, we know she is among the best athletes America has to offer. She does make the money that others do in tennis or basketball. But Mariel is who my daughter aspires to be – a gracious, educated and hard working young lady who ALWAYS finds the time to greet her fans and encourage those fans to work hard and to never give up on their dreams. Maybe Mariel is not wearing a bikini when she fences so she does not catch your attention Mr. Wise but she is a like a proud warrior who goes into battle – fearless yet elegant and strong – just like I hope my daughter will be always. So fencing does matter Mr. Wise, just open your eyes and you will see the value of fencing. Fencing programs can be found at the Ivy League schools and top universities in the U.S. Fencers are intelligent and high achieving. A fencer may end up being your boss one day….

  8. Tim, well articulated! Thank you for such a prompt and poignant response. The entire USA fencing team is a class act!

  9. Mr. Wise (??) went way over the line in his insulting comments. Classy response, Tim.

  10. Dear Tim,

    Thank you for championing Mariel Zagunis. While Mike Wise ignored your request for an apology to Mariel, it was the right thing to do. I have written a letter to the Post, I hope they publish it.

    Now take that righteous anger and go get ‘em in Team Sabre! GO USA!

  11. Not only is it not journalism, it’s anti-journalism.

    Journalists and sports fans alike complain that athletes all mouth platitudes and cliches when they win, or when they lose, or before they play, or after, or whenever. It’s always the same stuff, we complain. No one gives interesting interviews the way sports figures of old used to, we complain.

    But let an athlete actually tell you what happened and what do you do? You ridicule her for going off script. She told the truth, in a moment of weakness she told you what she was thinking, that she had fenced badly and lost focus, and instead of appreciating the insight you decided that her decision to go off script was a character flaw.

    Way to go there, champ. A few more articles like this and none of us will ever have to worry about an athlete saying anything original or giving us any actual insight into the game again. Good job.

  12. As a personal friend and fellow teammate, I for one can say that Mariel is the hardest working person I know. It’s a disgrace for anybody to say this sort of thing and I agree with you Tim, wholeheartedly. Go team USA!!

  13. Thank you Tim for your public standing-up for her! Your public statement is warranted.

  14. Had four additional thoughts last night.
    1. Placed in the same scale as world economics and politics, your little niche column about sports is kind of obscure, isn’t it?
    2. A Greek athlete got thrown out of the Olympics for a 140 character tweet. If you were an athlete, would you not only get thrown out of the Olympics but banned from your sport for life for your abusive comments?
    3. Zagunis had a moment of weakness after her loss and dared to share with you her true feelings yet you don’t give her credit. And you want me and the world to give YOU credit for your moment of weakness when you wrote disrespectful comments about an Olympian. Forget it.
    4. Finally, don’t pity any fencing athlete for they don’t need it. But an apology from you to Mariel Zagunis, Dagmara Wozniak, fencers as a whole and the Washington post is in order.

  15. I left my comments on the WP web site. Thanks for your leadership.

  16. Tim, if he ever comes to the Fencing Masters, put his chair in-between the on-guard lines while two sabreist are fencing (without a mask or armor) so he’ll know the pressure each athlete and major athlete has to shoulder.

    Grace under pressure and professionalism…

  17. Dear Tim, Thank you for your response. Everyone on the team is doing an amazing job of putting fencing in the light for the whole world to enjoy! Chris Latham

  18. Wow I didn’t read this article, thanks for putting it out there. I was upset that she didn’t win, however this sounds like he was writing as if she was loser ??? I am a fencer and I wish i could give him a whack with my foil. Touche’

  19. Thank you for this, Tim. We are ALL proud of Mariel and her amazing accomplishments. There is probably no one more upset than Mariel that she wasn’t able to bring home the Gold for the U.S. This kind of article is pure childishness and bullying. Mr. Wise might need a lesson in what Olympic spirit is.

  20. Mr.Wise is anything but (wise, that is). He obviously knows NOTHING about fencing – if he did, he would not have commented as he did. Educate yourself, Mr. Wise, and you will find out that fencing takes brains and skill and althetisism – not just braun. Fencing is an honorable sport and you have no place in it.

  21. Pingback: When Olympians deserve better from the rest of us | SportsMyriad

  22. I’ve been fencing for 60 years – and I am SO proud of what Mariel has accomplished for all of us. They say bad publicity is still publicity – so maybe Mr. Wise in his un-wise state has helped the sport! Thanks Tim for the counter-attack!

  23. One of my friends wrote that “True friends do not value you for what they can get from you.They simply value You.”

    Mr.Wise is not a true friend of Mariel, and not true friend of our sport of fencing and not true friend of sport at all.

  24. Pingback: US fencer blogs defense of Mariel Zagunis after Washington Post columnist … | Blogging for Money

  25. Sorry, but Zagunis acted like a jerk. Kim beat both the current women’s sabre World Champion and the current women’s sabre Silver medalist (and two-time Olympic Gold Medalist) in back to back matches to win the gold medal. Kim deserved more than “I handed it to her” from Zagunis, and Zagunis should have exhibited at least enough grace to shake hands with the judge and her competitor after losing the bronze medal.

  26. Wes, ever watch the Italians DURING a bout? After a bout? In addition, I’ve seen fencers ignore her after losign as well. It might have been a nice gesture, but it isn’t like it hasn’t been done a thousand times before…

  27. At The Arnold in Columbus a few years ago, my teenage son was competing (saber!) and won a medal. Mariel was there to put it around his neck. Needless to say, she’s selfless of her time in helping kids grow into the sport. Speaking on behalf of the many fencing parents I know and who would agree wholeheartedly, thank you Mariel. And Tim. And every Olympian who gives our kids the wonderful role models you are.

  28. Mariel is a first class fencer AND person. In fact, all the US Fencing Team represents class and sportsmanship. Wise’s printed tantrum is off the mark by a wide margin and it is HE who does not understand the spirit of the Olympics. I’d like to see him compete at that level and see how he reacts to disappointment.

  29. I would like to have a copy of the entire interview to see what sentences Mike left out. Skewing commentaries to suit your purpose is easily done. Anybody have a complete audio copy?

    Here’s a link to a site where she gave a pre-competition interview and she was mighty gracious there.

  30. Tim, Excellent response to that mouth breathing, knuckle dragging Neanderthal Mike Wise. It was the written equivelant to my favorite scene in every “Zorro” movie. You fencers all know it. It’s when Zorro, with a few flicks of his blade, slashes his opponents clothes to ribbons. Leaving his opponent in his underwear, in public, looking stupid. Well done.

  31. I saw the bout. This was my 14th Olympics and I have also been at 17 World Champinships, etc. etc. Kogler and his ilk have some explaining to do.

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