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August 5, 2008

A twice in a lifetime experience: Former fencer reflects on Olympics

Perhaps the emotion was just too much for her, or maybe it was just the peak of a long journey for the young fencing champion from

North Andover.

A 21-year-old Molly Sullivan Sliney stood in the middle of a crowded stadium during the opening ceremonies for the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea. When the torch was lit, she started crying.

An unknown USA teammate came up, put his arm around her and understood completely.

"Everyone has a story as to how they got here," he said.

Sullivan Sliney, who is married and lives in Bradford, looks back at the Games and could not agree more with the statement.

"When you walk through that archway and everyone starts screaming, you realize you're with the best athletes in the world," said Sullivan Sliney, who later competed in the '92 Games in Barcelona. "Everyone has worked so hard to get there. It just makes it real."

The two-time Olympic fencer certainly has the credentials to be considered among the best. She made her first national team at age 13, won two NCAA fencing titles at the University of Notre Dame, and won two Pan American Games gold medals.

That first Olympic experience still stands as her favorite athletic moment.

"It's interesting when you're older because you appreciate more than when you're actually there," said Sullivan Sliney. "I now realize the impact of being part of an elite group. The second time around I stepped back and absorbed so much more.

"It's just such a bonding experience. The Olympic village is set up so that every country has an area but then there's a community in the middle where everyone eats and does things. It's an incredible mixing experience and it's secretive."

She added she knows people from different countries who met and later got married.

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