Tag Archives: London

WCAP NCO forced to skip last race, but still closes strong at Rio Paralympics

By PABLO VILLA
NCO Journal

Sgt. Elizabeth Marks bowed out of what would have been her final race at the 2016 Rio Paralympics.

But that didn’t rob fans of seeing her finish her inaugural Games in impressive fashion.

The Paralympic swimmer from the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program of Fort Carson, Colorado, said Saturday on Twitter that she would not participate in the SM8 200-meter individual medley competition, which was scheduled for that day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, due to an undisclosed medical issue. Her message exhibited the unselfishness that has garnered Marks so much attention this year.

“I didn’t have my best to give, but another girl might,” the tweet stated.

But Marks’ best was definitely on display the previous night.

On Friday, Marks swam the second leg of the women’s 4×100 medley relay. The Americans finished in third place behind Great Britain and Australia. While the finish wasn’t golden, the fact that the U.S. team was able to reach the podium at all was an impressive feat given its difficult start. And Marks began turning the tide.

Hannah Aspden struggled as she swam the opening backstroke leg of the medley. She fell about five meters behind the pace of the leaders and came to the end of her 100-meter swim in fifth place, with sixth-place Japan not far behind. That’s when Marks went to work.

The 26-year-old swam the breaststroke leg, the same event in which she had already claimed a Paralympic gold medal. Marks’ effort during the medley was frenzied. She managed to speed into fourth place past the Netherlands before the turn. From there she closed the gap on third-place Canada to less than 10 meters. Marks did this despite being in the pool with five swimmers who compete in faster disability classifications. She would finish the leg with a time of 1:28.52, not even a half-second slower than her winning time of 1:28.13 in the SB7 100-meter breaststroke the previous weekend, which set a new world record.

It was prime position for her teammates Elizabeth Smith and Michelle Konkoly to wrest third-place away from Canada. It also ended up being the end to her time in Brazil. Marks finished the Games with a gold and bronze medal, fitting hardware for a Soldier and competitor who has been in the headlines throughout the year.

Marks gained international attention earlier this year after asking Prince Harry to take one of the gold medals she won at the Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida. Marks wanted the British royal to give the medal to the English hospital that saved her life. In 2014, while traveling to the Invictus Games in London, Marks fell ill and required a lifesaving procedure at Papworth Hospital in Cambridge. She missed the Games that year, but said she was lucky to come home alive. Offering her medal to the hospital was the best way she could say “thank you.” The gesture caught the world’s attention, culminating with her being awarded the Pat Tillman Award for Service at the ESPYs in July.

Her ordeal in England wasn’t the first time Marks underwent a stint in the hospital. She suffered bilateral hip injuries while deployed to Iraq as a combat medic in 2010. Those injuries are what pushed Marks to the pool in the first place. She has previously stated that she hopes her accomplishments can offer faith and optimism to her fellow wounded Soldiers.

Now, armed with medals earned on the grandest stage in sports, it appears Marks will remain a beacon of hope for quite some time.

26 NCOs part of U.S. service member, veteran contingent competing at Invictus Games

By PABLO VILLA
NCO Journal

Sgt. Stefan LeRoy was on a routine patrol June 7, 2012, with a small group of cavalry scouts in Afghanistan when disaster struck.

Two of LeRoy’s fellow Soldiers — his friends — detonated a pair of improvised explosive devices. LeRoy rushed to his fallen comrades, picking one of them up to take him back to safety. In his dash to the helicopter, he stepped on another IED. LeRoy lost both of his legs, but not his indefatigable spirit.

Three months after the blast, LeRoy started cycling as a way to stay fit and motivated. His father’s love of cycling contributed heavily in his recovery.

“My dad is a big cyclist, and we were able to cycle together,” LeRoy told the Army News Service in April 2015. “He was able to do it with me, and that made me more dedicated than I would have been otherwise.”

It wasn’t long before LeRoy began competing, and succeeding, against fellow Soldiers in his newfound sport. This week, his talent is on display during the 2016 Invictus Games. Now retired, LeRoy is one of 26 U.S. Army NCOs taking part in the international Paralympic-style, multi-sport event, which allows wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and veterans to compete.

The Invictus Games are the brainchild of Prince Harry of Wales, who was inspired to create the event after watching the 2013 U.S. Warrior Games in Colorado. The name Invictus is Latin for “Unconquered, Undefeated.” The prince’s aim was for the Games to “demonstrate the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and demonstrate life beyond disability.” The first edition of the Invictus Games was held Sept. 10-14, 2014, at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London.

This year’s Games are being held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida. Soldiers and veterans from all U.S. military branches will compete against counterparts from 14 countries in the event, which kicked off Sunday with an opening ceremony that was nationally televised on ESPN2. The network will broadcast more than 40 hours of events on its ESPN2 channel and online at ESPN3.com during the next four days. Competition concludes Thursday and the closing ceremonies will be broadcast live on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. EST.

For LeRoy, the competition is more than another hurdle in his recovery, it is a way to honor his fellow fallen Soldiers.

“In the military, we know that the strength of one comes from the strength of many,” he said in an Invictus Games video. “We never leave a fellow Soldier behind. I lost my legs in Afghanistan carrying others to safety. Now it is their memory, their courage, their sacrifice that carries me. And I will never let them down.”

NCOs at the Invictus Games

A list of Army noncommissioned officers competing with the United States team at the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida:

Staff Sgt. Ashley Anderson: Swimming.

Retired Sgt. 1st Class Chuck Armstead: Wheelchair basketball.

Sgt. 1st Class Allan Armstrong: Swimming, track and field, cycling.

Staff Sgt. Robert Brown: Track and field.

Master Sgt. Rhoden Galloway: Swimming.

Retired Sgt. Robbie Gaupp: Track and field, sitting volleyball.

Retired Staff Sgt. Randi Gavell: Swimming and track and field.

Staff Sgt. Robert Green: Track and field.

Retired Sgt. Sean Hook: Track and field, archery, indoor rowing.

Retired Staff Sgt. Michael Kacer: Swimming, track and field, indoor rowing.

Sgt. 1st Class Katie Kuiper: Track and field, cycling.

Retired Sgt. Stefan LeRoy: Swimming, track and field.

Sgt. Ryan Major: Track and field, indoor rowing, wheelchair rugby.

Sgt. Ana Manciaz: Archery, swimming, cycling, track and field.

Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Marks: Swimming.

Retired Staff Sgt. Robert Matthews: Track and field, cycling.

Sgt. 1st Class Michael McPhall: Swimming, track and field.

Retired Staff Sgt. Billy Meeks: Archery, indoor rowing.

Sgt. Kawaiola Nahale: Swimming.

Retired Staff Sgt. Tim Payne: Swimming, track and field.

Staff Sgt. Zed Pitts: Track and field, cycling.

Retired Staff Sgt. Alexander Shaw: Indoor rowing, sitting volleyball.

Sgt. 1st Class Michael Smith: Track and field.

Retired Sgt. Monica Southall: Track and field, indoor rowing, powerlifting, wheelchair rugby.

Sgt. Aaron Stewart: Cycling, swimming.

Retired Sgt. Nicholas Titman: Swimming, track and field.

Click here to view the full ESPN broadcast schedule.

WCAP NCO shatters para-swimming world record

By PABLO VILLA
NCO Journal

Sgt. Elizabeth Marks didn’t begin swimming to gain recognition. But during the weekend, she etched her name into the record books.

Marks, a combat medic and member of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program of Fort Carson, Colorado, set a new world record Saturday in the 50-meter breaststroke in the SB7 division, a disability swimming classification, during the first day of the Jimi Flowers Classic in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Marks won the race with a time of 41.21, breaking the previous world record time of 42.07 set by American swimmer Jessica Long in 2014.

Sgt. Elizabeth Marks
Sgt. Elizabeth Marks

“I was in with a lot of very fast girls who I compete with a lot,” Marks told reporters after the race. “They aren’t in my classification so I don’t always get to race them and that’s really enjoyable because it gives me people to pace off of.”

Marks, who was recently named to the 2016 U.S. Paralympics Swimming National Team, began swimming in 2012. The water was a means of rehabilitation for the bilateral hip injuries she sustained in 2010 while deployed to Iraq. Marks underwent three surgeries to restructure her hips and regain enough mobility to walk. Swimming was not only a therapeutic endeavor but a challenge that Marks immediately fell in love with. Four months after participating in her first competition she became the first female Paralympic athlete in WCAP.

In September 2014, Marks fell ill while traveling to the Invictus Games in London. Her condition worsened and she was eventually hospitalized and placed on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, life support to help her breathe. She awoke from her medically induced coma crushed but unconquered. Marks immediately went back to work to reclaim her form. Two months after leaving the hospital she broke an American record in the SB9 200-meter breaststroke. Less than two years later, she has served notice to the world that she will be a force at this year’s Summer Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Marks joined the Army at age 17 in July 2008 in Prescott Valley, Arizona. Her goal was to care for injured Soldiers as a combat medic, a role she carried out until she was injured. Despite her altered path in the Army, Marks’ continues to help and motivate Soldiers.

“I love the Army. More than the Army, I love Soldiers,” Marks said in a 2015 video essay submission to the Triumph Games. “Sharing my story, passion and experience with other injured or ill Soldiers is the most precious gift that my life has been given.

“I met a female Soldier and got to share my story about overcoming injury and illness, competing against men, about the mental, physical and emotional struggle that sports has helped me through. The impact will last with me forever. She presented me with a letter and a Soldier’s prayer saying, ‘I hated life. I had given up. No one believed in me. And then I met you.’ Because of her words, I will never give up.”