U.S. flag bearer Mariel Zagunis leads her delegation during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 28, 2012, at the Olympic Stadium in London. / ADRIAN DENNIS/Getty Images
(CBS News) Fencer Mariel Zagunis will be leaving London without any medals, but she'll always have memories of the 2012 opening ceremony at which, carrying the American flag, she led 500 of her compatriots around the Olympic arena.
The 27-year-old Oregon athlete, who lost her bronze-level match Wednesday, was chosen for the flag-bearing honor by a vote of the U.S. delegation.
"It means a lot to be picked by my fellow athletes," she said after the vote. "It's not some random committee thinking that someone is deserving. The athletes are actually picking who is leading them into the opening ceremony. I can't believe that I'm going to be the one who has that opportunity."
And while she failed to medal in this Olympics, she still has three Olympic medals, two of them gold, from previous games as well as a host of world titles.
Zagunis was 19 when she went to her first Olympics in 2004 in Athens and became the first U.S. fencer to win Olympic gold in 100 years. She repeated the feat in Beijing in 2008 and also picked up a bronze medal.
Ironically, she wasn't supposed to be at those Athens games. She had failed to make the cut for the Olympic squad and was only added to the team when a spot opened up.