Elizabeth Marks was serving in the US military in Iraq, in 2010, when she got injured on both her hips and had to undergo three operations to restructure them. Only one year later, she took up swimming whilst recovering at the Brooke Army Medical Center in Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
In 2012, the mobility in her legs was reduced and her lung capacity decreased as a result of an illness. But that did not stop her from competing on a national level, securing several wins at the U.S. Paralympics Swimming Spring National Championships and the Jimi Flowers Classic.
But Marks fell gravely ill again in 2014 and had to be hospitalized, resulting in a neurological impairment. Luckily, doctors from the Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire, Great Britain, saved her life and Marks was back in the pool by the end of the year, proving nothing can let her down.
In 2016, she won four gold medals at the Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida, USA. When she received one of them from British Prince Harry, Marks gave it back to him, asking Harry to pass it on to the Papworth Hospital, where she was saved two years before.
After so many ups and downs, the 26-year-old made her Paralympic debut at Rio 2016, where she set a world record of 1:28.13 on her way to gold in the women’s 100m breaststroke SB7. Marks also secured bronze in the 4x100m medley 34pts.
She is hopeful of continuing to improve and will seek her first medal at a World Championships in Mexico city, from 30 September-7 October.
Further personal information
Sport specific information
She grew up in Prescott Valley, AZ, United States of America, and as a teenager she struggled to find a goal in life. She joined a military-based educational programme sponsored by the US Army, where mentors provided her with structure and a support system that eventually inspired her to join the military at age 17. She served as a combat medic in Iraq, where she got injured, and later became a competitive swimmer in the US Army's World Class Athlete Program at Fort Carson in Colorado. "The Army has afforded me the ability to have a family and a network of people that trust. I think there are a lot of kids that deserve those chances." (army.mil, 17 Oct 2017)
She was cheered on by the critical care team of Royal Papworth Hospital at the 2019 World Championships in London, England. They had looked after her in 2014 when she fell critically ill ahead of the Invictus Games in the same city. She donated the four gold medals she won at the 2016 Invictus Games to the team at Royal Papworth as a mark of her gratitude. "If not for the people of Papworth Hospital I wouldn't get the chance to compete in a final [where she won a gold medal in the S7 100m backstroke at the 2019 World Championships]." (redlandscommunitynews.com, 01 Nov 2019; people.com, 13 Sep 2019; royalpapworth.nhs.uk, 13 Sep 2019)
The tattoos on her right leg present an image of her life story. They include a large, wounded crow that represents her, and a red cross that symbolises her work as a combat medic in the army. The tattoos cover some of her scars, but she still leaves some exposed, and refuses make-up to cover them. "I earned them, so I'm going to wear them." (telegraph.co.uk, 13 Sep 2016; espn.com, 14 Jul 2016)
In March 2018 she was a member of a Presidential Delegation from the United States of America that attended the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang. "It's an absolute honour. I can't believe they're allowing me to come support my country and my brothers and sisters. It's just an honour." (teamusa.org, 08 Mar 2018)
|Women's 100 m Breaststroke SB7||Heat 2||2016-09-10||1|
|Women's 100 m Breaststroke SB7||Final Round||2016-09-10||1|
|Women's 100 m Backstroke S8||Heat 1||2016-09-13||2|
|Women's 100 m Backstroke S8||Final Round||2016-09-13||8|
|Women's 4x100 m Medley 34pts||Final Round||2016-09-16||3|