Margaret "Peggy" Menges, an 18-year Longwood at Oakmont resident, will be boarding a plane to London on Wednesday to attend her third Olympic games—and each time, she's watched a family member compete.
This year, Menges, 86, will be cheering on her granddaughter Mariel Zagunis, 27, of Oregon, in her hopes of winning a third Olympic gold medal. Zagunis made her debut as a sabre fencer in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, and won the first Olympic Gold medal for an American fencer in 100 years. She also earned a gold at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics in China, as Menges watched on.
This year's fencing event will take place Aug. 1, and Menges is anxiously awaiting that day.
"I'm on countdown," she said.
Prior to watching her granddaughter at the Olympics, Menges watched her daughter—and Mariel's mother—Catherine Menges-Zagunis compete in the 1976 games as a rower.
Menges-Zagunis was a swimmer, and she joined the rowing team at Connecticut College during her senior year as colleges and universities across the United States began adding more women’s sports teams via Title IX.
Menges-Zagunis continued rowing competitively for Philadelphia’s Vesper Boat Club during her studies at University of Pennsylvania, and in 1975, she competed in the World Cup Races. In 1976, she then joined the first group of women to compete on behalf of the United States for the Montreal Olympics in rowing. Ironically, she went on to marry Robert Zagunis, who also competed with the U.S. rowing team at the '76 games.
"Both of Mariel's parents are Olympians," Menges said with a laugh. "They inspired her."
Menges is no stranger to athletics. While she never competed as a young woman—she participated in synchronized swimming—her daughter persuaded her to join a Masters competitive swim team. She has since received national and world gold medals in competitions.
"Women my age didn't have the opportunity to swim competitively like my daughter did. It keeps you going," she said. "If I don't swim, I get stiff. If I'm already stiff, I can swim it out. It's a great activity."
Menges has been keeping in touch with her granddaughter via email and Facebook in the days leading up to the Olympics.
"She's training a lot in fencing and she has a personal trainer to help her other muscles stay in shape," Menges said.
On the day she departs for London, Menges said she hopes to catch a glimpse of Zagunis on the NBC Today Show.
Menges—who has three children, 10 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren—said she is looking forward to reuniting with her family in London.
"I am proud of all of them," she said. "They're all successful in their different ways."