This Famous Athlete Carried The U.S. Flag In 2012

On Friday, Aug. 5, people all over the world will be tuning in to watch the opening ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. And just like in every opening ceremony, they'll be watching their athletes march in the Parade of Nations, with one per country getting to serve as the flag-bearer. This time around, it'll be legendary Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps doing the honors, but it's easy to forget who bore that ceremonial role in years past — for example, who carried the U.S. flag during the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony?

Luckily, some questions are easily answered, and this is one of them. At the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, the role of flag-bearer went to American fencer Mariel Zagunis, as she was selected through a vote by the other members of Team USA. Zagunis was at that time competing in her third Olympics, having won an individual gold in women's sabre in Athens in 2004 (the first time an American had taken top honors in fencing in a century), and again in Beijing in 2008 (she also picked up a bronze for the team event).

Sadly, she didn't win any medals in London. But she's got another chance this time around — she won't be hoisting the flag at the opening ceremony this time, but Zagunis will indeed be in Rio for her fourth consecutive Olympics, a truly impressive feat.

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Zagunis will be joining a Team USA that also includes 30-year-old Ibtihaj Muhammad. Muhammad had been a popular choice to do the honors of carrying the flag this year, owing in part to her status as a proud American Muslim (she competes in her hijab) at this particular moment in American political history. She also publicly commented on the U.S. presidential campaign on Wednesday, calling GOP nominee Donald Trump's rhetoric about Muslims "very dangerous." That said, she didn't end up getting the nod — Phelps, competing in his fifth Olympics as the most decorated American athlete of all time, was chosen for the honor instead.

If you're keen to watch the opening ceremony and the Parade of Nations (which does take a while, but it can also be a pretty inspirational display of international unity, tolerance, and recognition), you won't have to wait too much longer. It's scheduled for Friday night at 7:30 p.m. ET, and like the entirety of the Rio games, it'll be broadcasted on NBC.