New Valencia campus president proud of Olympic flag bearer
Female fencer Mariel Zagunis will carry the U.S. flag in tonight’s opening ceremony for the London Olympics, something Valencia’s new East and Winter Park Campus president, Stacey Johnson, says will be historic for special reasons.
“It’s very special,” she said. “I’ve gotten emails and texts from all over the country because of this.”
When Johnson, herself an Olympic fencer in the 1980s, became president of the U.S. Fencing Association in 2000, she led an international campaign to allow women to compete in “Sabre,” the most macho of the three fencing disciplines, which also includes “Foil” and “Epee.” The effort passed by seven votes out of 88 countries which cast ballots.
Coincidentally, the first woman in decades to earn a gold medal in Sabre fencing at the very next Olympics at Athens in 2004, was Mariel Zagunis. She earned an additional gold medal for the same in Beijing in 2008.
“Winning those medals really broke it open for the U.S., and we started to win a lot more,” said Johnson.
Another reason why Zagunis is a wonderful selection, Johnson said, is because of the anniversary of Title IX, congressional legislation from 1972 which barred gender-based exclusions from participation and benefits in educational programs and activities receiving federal financial aid.
“Title IX changed my life,” Johnson said. “I was one of the first of 200 women in the state of California to get an athletic scholarship. Before that, women could not get athletic scholarships.”
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