Soldier-athlete breaks records on her way to Summer Paralympics

Soldier-athlete breaks records on her way to Summer Paralympics
Sgt. 1st Class Elizabeth Marks, a solider-athlete in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, broke two American records at the Paralympic Swimming Trials June 17-21 while qualifying for the Summer Games. Photo credit U.S. Army/Maj. Nathaniel Garcia

Sgt. 1st Class Elizabeth Marks, a Solider-athlete in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, broke two American records at the Paralympic Swimming Trials June 17-21 while qualifying for the Summer Games.

Marks, who swims in the S6 classification, clocked in at 1:21.56 in the 100-meter backstroke, beating the American record and coming just shy of the world record. She also swam a 37.08 in the preliminary round of the 50-meter butterfly, beating the American record of 37.10, and then went on to beat her own record with a time of 37.06 in the finals.

“It doesn’t feel real yet,” said Marks, a two-time Paralympic medalist. “I am just really excited to swim.”

Marks will be competing in the 100-meter backstroke, 50-meter butterfly, 200-meter individual medley and the 50-meter freestyle at the 2020 Summer Paralympic Games, kicking off Aug. 24 in Tokyo, Japan.

“I am honored to represent my country and the U.S. Army,” said Marks, a four-time gold medalist at the Invictus Games. “None of this would be possible without my brothers and sister in the military. I never thought I could peruse something like this and they pushed me to try.”

This summer will mark her second Paralympic Games, and she plans on changing up her strategy on her second go.

Soldier-athlete breaks records on her way to Summer Paralympics
U.S. Army Sgt. Elizabeth Marks swims the 100-meter freestyle at Invictus Games 2016, Orlando, Fla., May 11, 2016. Photo credit U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Joshua L. DeMotts

“The last games were a culture shock for me,” said Marks. “This time I am going to enjoy the moment and remember that I am not competing for myself but for those who are no longer with us.”

Marks says she tries to approach all races as grateful as possible and thinks of all of the people who have gotten her to where she is today.

Marks always make it a point to give gratitude to her brothers and sisters in the military, those who are here as well as those who are not.

“They provide me motivation and support,” said Marks. “My husband has also been incredibly supportive. He has been the team behind the team and I am so lucky.”

Marks, the Army’s first Paralympic swimmer, sports a long list of achievements and awards despite the fact she has only been swimming since 2012.

Marks got into swimming during her recovery after she was injured in Iraq. She fell in love with the sport and used her training to work toward being declared fit for duty.

Marks is on her way to the 2020 Summer Games along with the follow 11 WCAP Soldier-athletes:

Spc. Benard Keter, 3,000-meter steeplechase
Staff Sgt. Naomi Graham, boxing
Staff Sgt. Sandra Uptagrafft, shooting
1st Lt. Amber English, shooting
Staff Sgt. Nickolaus Mowrer, shooting
Sgt. John Wayne Joss, para shooting
Staff Sgt. Kevin Nguyen, para shooting
Sgt. Ildar Hafizov, wrestling
Spc. Alejandro Sancho, wrestling
Sgt. Amro Elgeziry, modern pentathlon
Sgt. Samantha Schultz, modern pentathlon

WCAP also has three coaches on Team USA: Sgt. Terrence Jennings, taekwondo; Sgt. 1st Class. Dennis Bowsher, modern pentathlon; and Staff Sgt. Spencer Mango, wrestling.<