LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) – U.S. Army Staff Sgt. 1st Class Elizabeth Marks is already a legend among military athletes. The swimmer befriended Prince Harry and won titles at many suitable sporting events – the Invictus Games and the Military World Games. After the challenges she faced in Iraq and later at Papworth Hospital in Britain, winning Paralympic gold (also in world record mode) isn’t that difficult.
In Friday’s women’s 100m backstroke final – S6 at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, Sgt. Marks got a head start from the start, which she kept throughout the race. Even as she reached halfway as the only swimmer needing visual assistance, the Queen Creek, Ariz. Native was on her way to victory with a world record of 1:19, 57. (Note: Paralympic swimmers compete with others with similar degrees of impairment). With this victory, she now has a medal for every stroke played on the international stage.
Friday’s gold was Marks’ third medal this summer and the fifth of his career. Last Wednesday, Marks opened the Games with a silver medal in the S6 50m freestyle. Days later, the army veteran won bronze in the 50m butterfly.
At age 17, Marks joined the United States Army in 2008 and continued to serve as a healthcare specialist. In 2010, she suffered bilateral hip injuries and would need several surgeries as a result. She will soon turn to swimming as a form of therapy. Sgt. Marks became a part of the Army’s world-class athlete program and continued to serve as a combat medic.
One of her biggest challenges came in 2014, when she contracted a severe respiratory infection while preparing for the 2014 Invictus Games in London. She was then placed on life support and the infection caused visual and pulmonary complications, which still exist today. Although Marks, known as “Ellie”, was slowly recovering, she suffered from chronic pain during her competitions, including the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games where she established herself as an elite swimmer by winning gold in the 100m breaststroke SB7, as well as a bronze medal in the 4x100m medley relay.
In 2017, she chose to have her left leg amputated, a decision she considers the one that saved her life. Since then, she has won gold at the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships in London, in the S6 100m backstroke, the same stroke that earned her gold on Friday.
The swimming portion of the Tokyo Paralympic Games is officially over. The Summer Games, which end with the closing ceremony on Sunday, are available on NBC’s various platforms. Weekend specials will air on KCBD-TV, starting at 7 p.m. Saturday and 6 p.m. Sunday.
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