U.S. Army Sergeant Elizabeth Marks had more than a sparkling gold medal to smile about when she won her event at the 2019 World Para Swimming World Championships in London on Thursday.
The competitor was surprised by the support of some of the hospital staff who helped save her life.
Marks first made headlines at Prince Harry’s 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando when she donated the medal she won to Papworth Hospital in the U.K. The staff there saved her five years ago. Marks had fallen ill with a serious lung condition just before the first Invictus Games in 2014, and had to be put in a medically-induced coma.
On Thursday, just after she had won her latest race, she was told by a TV interviewer that some of the fans cheering her on from the stands were from the famous British hospital. “No they’re not. . . dirty trick,” Marks exclaimed as she was shown a video clip of them supporting her. “That’s pretty amazing.
“When I flew over here for the inaugural Invictus Games I became very ill and I ended up on life support,” she explained. “And if not for the people of Papworth Hospital I wouldn’t get the chance to compete in a final.”
Sgt. Marks – who has been in the Army since she was 17 and suffered a serious hip injury in 2010 which left her with no sensation in her left leg – has become a champion swimmer. She called the Paralympic-style Invictus Games a “beautiful experience,” as sick, injured or wounded veterans and serving armed forces members show “what they can do as opposed to what they can’t do.”
Harry – who Sgt. Marks praised as “our champion that’s a brother-in-arms also” – delivered her medal to some of the Papworth Hospital staff personally in 2016.
Earlier this week, Harry marked the 5th anniversary of the first games in 2014 with a reception in London. The next games will be held in May in The Netherlands.