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INTERNATIONAL PARALYMPIC COMMITTEE
Imagen
A female swimmer doing breaststroke

Elizabeth Anne Marks

Swimming
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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.

Biography

Impairment information

Origin of Impairment
Acquired
Classification
S8, SB7, SM8

Further personal information

Family
Husband Mason
Residence
Colorado Springs, CO, USA
Occupation
Athlete, Medical Professional, Serves in the Army
Languages
English

Sport specific information

When and where did you begin this sport?
She began swimming in 2011 at the Brooke Army Medical Center in Fort Sam Houston, TX, United States of America.
Why this sport?
She believed the sport would be a good way of overcoming her injuries.
Name of coach
Nathan Manley [national]

General interest

Nicknames
Ellie (espn.com, 14 Jul 2016)
Hero / Idol
Her father James Marks. (teamusa.org, 01 Oct 2016)
Injuries
She fell ill in September 2014 while travelling to the Invictus Games in London, England, which resulted in her being hospitalised and put on life support for 10 days. She woke up in the same hospital in Germany that she had been medically evacuated to from Iraq four years earlier. The illness resulted in a neurological impairment, decreased lung capacity, and a further reduction of mobility in her legs. She returned to training in December 2014. (teamusa.org, 03 Mar 2016; belvoireagle.com, 26 Feb 2015)
Superstitions / Rituals / Beliefs
She swims with a ring on her right index finger from 22Kill.com, a website that derives its name from a Veterans Administration report that suggested up to 22 veterans commit suicide each day. (espn.com, 14 Jul 2016)
Sporting philosophy / motto
"When I step onto the blocks, I never think, 'I want to win'. I think, 'I want to pour all of myself into this race because there are people who can't physically, mentally or emotionally, do that.' So it's my way of performing for them." (espn.com, 14 Jul 2016)
Awards and honours
In 2016 she won the Pat Tillman Award for Service at the Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly [ESPY] Awards in the United States of America. (hollywoodlife.com, 13 Jul 2016)
Other sports
She won a bronze medal in hand cycling at the 2013 Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, CO, United States of America. (wtc.armylive.dodlive.mil, 14 May 2013)
Impairment
In April 2010 she sustained injuries to both hips while on assignment in Iraq as a combat medic for the US Army. She underwent three operations to restructure her hips. An illness in 2012 caused a further reduction in mobility in her legs and decreased her lung capacity, which can lead to disorientation and vision issues when she is swimming. After once again falling ill in 2014 she experienced further complications that led her experiencing chronic pain. In 2017 she decided to have her left leg amputated below the knee. "It was painful, but compared to what I'd been living in it was a relief. It was kind of shocking that it had been so long that I'd been in pain I didn't really recognise it. I got emotional because immediately after the surgery, I felt so much better." (teamusa.org, 12 Dec 2018, 03 Mar 2016; ftgordonsignal.com, 04 Oct 2013)
Other information
EARLY DAYS
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)

DELEGATION
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)

TATTOOS
The tattoo on her right leg presents an image of her life story. A large, wounded crow represents her, a red cross symbolises her work as a combat medic in the army, and dog tags will eventually show the name of her father James Marks, a veteran of the Vietnam War. She also intends to have a large US flag at the base of the ensemble. 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)

Results

Unit Date Rank
Rio 2016 Paralympic Games (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
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