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U.S. fencers sweep women's sabre

Beijing, China (Sports Network) - The U.S. swept the women's individual sabre fencing competition Saturday at the Olympics with Mariel Zagunis successfully defending her gold medal at the National Convention Center.

Zagunis defeated countrywoman Sada Jacobson by a 15-8 score in the gold medal match and Becca Ward made it a clean sweep for the Americans by besting Russia's Sofiya Velikaya, 15-14, in the bronze medal match.

The fencing trio picked up the first three medals for the U.S. at the Beijing Games and gave the Americans the overall medal lead after the first day of competition.

It marks the first time a country has swept the medals in an individual fencing event since Germany did it in women's foil at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.

Former U.S. president George H.W. Bush was in attendance to witness the historic fencing medal haul and afterward pulled a tissue out of his pocket to give to Zagunis, who was crying on the medal stand.

"It's absolutely amazing," said Zagunis. "We made history today. I'm proud of myself as well as Sada and Becca."

The three stood for several pictures and hugged as the former president was in the stands immediately above them after the match.

Zagunis was the first American fencer to win Olympic gold in 100 years when she took the sabre competition in Athens and made it two straight by beating her teammates in the final two matches. Zagunis had earned a berth in the gold medal match by besting Ward, 15-11.

The final match was tied at 2-2 early, but Zagunis then went on a 9-3 run to take an 11-5 advantage. Jacobson, who took bronze in this event in Athens, was able to cut the deficit to 12-8 before Zagunis took the final three points for the win.

"I just tried to treat it like any other competition," Zagunis said of the final match. "It really is a dream come true, but I'm glad it's over. I did what I came here to do."

Meanwhile, the 18-year-old Ward, who is competing in her first Olympics, assured the sweep by coming back from a 6-1 deficit to defeat Velikaya.

Zagunis, Jacobson and Ward still have another chance at a medal here in Beijing when they join forces for the team sabre event on Thursday.

A shocking upset occurred earlier in the day's competition, as Russia's Elena Nechaeva, the reigning world champion in women's sabre, was knocked out in her opening match, losing, 15-12, to Poland's Irena Wieckowska.

China's Tan Xue, silver medalist in Athens, also had a disappointing showing, as she was knocked out in the quarterfinals by Velikaya.

08/09 10:19:58 ET