Record-Breaking Soldier-Athlete Heading to Tokyo 2020 Summer Paralympics

By Brittany Nelson

Sgt. 1st Class Elizabeth Marks, a solider-athlete in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program (WCAP), broke two American records at the Paralympic Swimming Trials June 17-21, 2021, 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 got into swimming during her recovery after both of her hips were severely injured during her tour in Iraq. She fell in love with the sport and used her training to work toward being declared fit for duty.

Photo credit Joshua L. DeMotts

U.S. Army Sgt. Elizabeth Marks swims the 100-meter freestyle at Invictus Games 2016, Orlando, Fla., May 11, 2016. The Invictus Games are composed of 14 nations with over 500 military competitors competing in 10 sporting events.

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, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan.

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

Sgt. 1st Class Elizabeth Marks with her husband and biggest supporter, Mason Heibel, at the 2016 ESPYs where Marks received the Pat Tillman award. | Photo credit Courtesy Photo via Army.mil

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

“The last games were a culture shock for me,” Marks said. “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 with gratitude and thinks of all the people who have gotten her to where she is today, like her brothers and sisters in the military, those who are here as well as those who are not.

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

-This article was originally published on Army.mil. It has been edited for USO.org.

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