Tag Archives: Rio de Janeiro

WCAP NCO named to Impact25 list of women who have made a difference

By PABLO VILLA
NCO Journal

It’s been a momentous year for Sgt. Elizabeth Marks.

The combat medic and U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program swimmer spent the summer garnering international headlines for a grand gesture while winning four gold medals in swimming at the Invictus Games. That led to an appearance at the ESPYs, the awards show that recognizes sports’ highest achievements, to receive the Pat Tillman Award for Service. She followed that up by smashing a world record and winning two medals during her first trip to the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The list of hardware is already impressive. But it received another addition earlier this week.

Marks was named to the ESPN Women’s Impact25 Athletes and Influencers list Tuesday. The list highlights the top 25 women who made the greatest impact in sports and the societies in which they live. Marks joined names such as Simone Biles, the Olympic gymnastics gold medalist who was also the magazine’s Woman of the Year; Kathryn Smith, the National Football League’s first female full-time coach; and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee.

“It’s extremely special to even be mentioned,” Marks said on Twitter about being an Impact25 nominee.

Her unveiling as an honoree was marked by an essay written by Prince Harry. The British royal was at the center of the moment that opened the world’s eyes to Marks.

In May, she made international headlines for her gesture at the Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida.

Marks was decorated with her fourth gold medal at the Games by Prince Harry, who created the competition, an international Paralympic-style, multi-sport event, which allows wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and veterans to compete. After he placed the medal around Marks’ neck, the 26-year-old gave the award back.

Marks wanted Prince Harry to deliver the medal to Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, England, where she spent the duration of the inaugural Invictus Games in 2014. Marks traveled to London in the fall of that year to compete in the Games when she collapsed with respiratory distress syndrome. Her condition worsened and she was eventually hospitalized and placed on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, life support to help her breathe. She missed the Games, but Marks said she was fortunate to come back alive. She said donating one of her medals was the only way she could think of to repay the hospital staff. Her request was honored June 1.

“This is an incredible achievement by any standards,” Prince Harry wrote about Marks’ appearance in the Impact25 list. “And I know this is how she wants to be defined, by her achievements and her abilities. But as an Army sergeant wounded in service to her country, her journey to get to this point has been remarkable. To me she epitomizes the courage, resilience and determination of our servicemen and women. Using sport to fight back from injury in the most remarkable way, she sums up what the Invictus Games spirit is all about.

For Marks, her ordeal in 2014 wasn’t the first time she had to endure an arduous hospital stay. In 2010, after suffering devastating injuries in Iraq, she grew nervous about the words being bandied about her such as “end of service” or “retirement.” Marks called her father to vent her frustrations. The former Marine told his daughter to write what was most important to her on a piece of paper. She scrawled “FFD” in pencil on a torn sheet of paper. The acronym stood for “fit for duty.” She was deemed fit for duty on July 3, 2012, after several painful surgeries and exhaustive rehabilitation. Marks has not stopped trying to live up to the notion, resuming her job as a medic while also competing for WCAP.

She was back in the pool one month after her ordeal in England. Two months after leaving the hospital, she broke an American record in the SB9, a disability swimming classification, 200-meter breaststroke. Less than two years later, she set a new world record in the 50-meter breaststroke in the SB7 division.

“I was told it’d be six months before I got into a pool again,” Marks told the audience at the ESPYs where she became the first active-duty Soldier to receive the Pat Tillman Award. “I got into a pool about a month out of my coma. Without those physicians, without their service, I would’ve died. I hope that my service could eventually mean that to someone.”

Marks received a standing ovation after accepting the award on the stage of the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. She thanked her father and the Pat Tillman Foundation for turning an “absolute tragedy into a triumph.” She also thanked her fellow injured service members throughout the world for their support. She said any success she found at the Rio Paralympics would be because of them.

And find success she did. Marks broke her own world record in the breaststroke to win the gold medal. She then had a heroic swim in her leg of the 4×100 medley relay to help the Americans win a bronze medal after getting off to a difficult start.

The feat seemed to cap off a storied sports year for Marks. But this week proved otherwise. And that should suit her desire to inspire her fellow Soldiers just fine.

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.

NCO posts highest finish for American man in rifle prone at Rio Paralympics

By PABLO VILLA
NCO Journal

Staff Sgt. John Joss may not have reached the medal stand Wednesday, Sept. 14, at the 2016 Paralympic Games, but the four-year member of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit certainly proved his name belongs alongside the shooting world’s elite.

Joss started the day next to 40 of the world’s best shooters in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, competing in the mixed R6-50-meter rifle prone competition. By day’s end, his scores netted him a fifth-place finish. It was the highest finish for an American man at the competition.

While not bringing home any hardware is certainly disappointing, the top-five finish showcased Joss’ deftness with the rifle in his first Paralympics. He qualified for the medal round after a sixth-place finish in outdoor qualification amid blustery conditions. National Paralympic Coach Bob Foth said Joss made smart decisions throughout qualification in reading wind speed and movement. Once action moved indoors for the finals, Joss improved his standing by one position.

Staff Sgt. John Joss placed fifth in the mixed R6 50-meter rifle prone event Sept. 14 at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (File photo courtesy of U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit)
Staff Sgt. John Joss placed fifth in the mixed R6 50-meter rifle prone event Sept. 14 at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (File photo courtesy of U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit)

“This is totally different than anything I’ve ever done before,” Joss told USA Shooting after the competition. “I felt calm and on fire at the same time. I know I was working with a kind of shaky hold. I was making smart decisions, but there isn’t much I could do at the end. I did the best I could, and I really took a lot out of it. It’s hard to hit a target that small alone, then when you have an elevated heart rate, a pulse in your hand and your front sight starts moving around, it makes it a lot harder.”

Joss’ performance is also testament to how far he has come since sustaining both physical injuries and emotional hardship in 2007. Joss had both of his legs seriously injured in an improvised explosive device attack while deployed north of Baghdad, Iraq. He returned to the United States to undergo multiple surgeries and begin a grueling rehabilitation process before he was dealt another blow — Joss’ father was killed in a vehicle accident two months after his arrival at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.

Joss subsequently made the difficult decision to amputate his right leg. He began shooting competitively at Fort Benning, Georgia, to supplement his rehabilitation. Joss soon found success. He joined the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit in 2012. In 2013 and 2014, he won gold at the USA Shooting National Championships. Two years later, he has served notice to the rest of the shooting world that he will be a force in the coming years.

Sgt. Elizabeth Marks broke a Paralympic swimming world record in winning her first gold medal at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Marks won the women's 100-meter breaststroke with a time of 1.28:13. (Photo courtesy U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program)
Sgt. Elizabeth Marks broke a Paralympic swimming world record in winning her first gold medal at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Marks won the women’s 100-meter breaststroke with a time of 1.28:13. (Photo courtesy U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program)

WCAP swimmer back in action

Sgt. Elizabeth Marks returns to the pool Thursday, Sept. 15, for the first of three events she is scheduled to compete in.

The Paralympic swimmer from the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program competes in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay Sept. 15. She will swim the 4×100-meter medley relay Friday, Sept. 16, and closes the Rio Paralympics in the SM8 200-meter individual medley.

Marks has already claimed one gold medal at these Paralympics, winning the SB7 100-meter breaststroke with a world record time during the weekend.

Marksmanship Unit NCO displays determination in path to Rio Paralympics

By PABLO VILLA
NCO Journal

Staff Sgt. John Joss once referred to himself as an “average active adult” in the aftermath of the surgery that took his right leg.

But average people don’t make it to the grandest stage in sports.

Joss is the current American record holder in the mixed R6 50-meter rifle prone. He will compete in the event today, Sept. 14, at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. But while success in shooting has come relatively easy for the member of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, Joss’ path to the Paralympics has been grueling. He has gone through a harrowing improvised explosive device attack in Iraq, an exhaustive rehabilitation process and the difficult decision to amputate his leg.

Joss was deployed to Iraq in 2007, stationed just north of Baghdad. On Easter Sunday that year, he was riding in a vehicle with four other men when it was hit by an IED. Three of the vehicle’s occupants were severely injured, including Joss. His left leg was pinned beneath artillery equipment. His right leg was shattered from the shin down.

The convoy’s medic vehicle was hit at the same time as the one Joss was riding in. It meant that Joss had to apply his own tourniquet. He was eventually freed from the vehicle and sent to Germany before arriving at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. Once there, Joss began a medical odyssey lasting two months that included multiple surgeries and a painstaking rehabilitation process. He said in a 2008 interview that despite his hard work in the rehabilitation facility, his legs — particularly his right — weren’t responding to his cues.

Staff Sgt. John Joss competes in the mixed R6 50-meter rifle prone event Wednesday at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit)
Staff Sgt. John Joss competes in the mixed R6 50-meter rifle prone event Wednesday at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit)

While physical anguish filled his days in Texas, Joss was struck with another tragedy. His father was killed in a car accident two months after Joss suffered his injuries. That, coupled with his limited ability to amble around on his injured legs, spurred a gut-wrenching decision.

“Getting injured, losing my ability to move around, then losing my father in a car crash, all in less than two months — that was a lot to take at one time,” Joss said in 2008. “… I asked the doctor point-blank about my leg, amputation versus saving it. I made the decision to have it amputated. I had seen guys with similar injuries still in a wheelchair three years later. And the pain I was in was phenomenal.”

On Aug. 23, 2007, Joss’ leg was amputated.

“Within two months of the amputation, I was up on my leg,” Joss said. “I am an average active adult, and when I wear blue jeans, you can’t even tell.”

What you can tell is his prowess with a rifle. Joss took up competitive shooting at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he went for rehabilitation after the amputation. He joined the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit in 2012. He parlayed his newfound sport into two consecutive gold medals at the USA Shooting National Championships in 2013 and 2014.

He earned his spot at the Paralympics after winning a silver medal at the International Paralympic Committee Shooting World Cup in Sydney, Australia. Now he hopes to bring home gold.

No medal for Marks in backstroke

Sgt. Elizabeth Marks couldn’t continue her winning ways Tuesday, Sept. 13.

The Paralympic swimming phenom, who wowed audiences by smashing a world record Saturday, placed eighth in the women’s S8 100-meter backstroke, finishing with a time of 1:22.67. Fellow American swimmer Jessica Long won bronze in the race, finishing behind gold-medal winner Stephanie Millward of Great Britain and Maddison Elliott of Australia.

While she missed out on a trip to the podium, Marks’ medal performance during the weekend produced gold in scintillating fashion. The World Class Athlete Program swimmer won the SB7 100-meter breaststroke with a time of 1:28.13, a new world record.

Marks is scheduled to compete in three more events beginning with the SM8 200-meter individual medley Thursday.

Paralympic archer bows out

Staff Sgt. Michael Lukow was eliminated from medal contention Tuesday, Sept. 13.

Lukow, a Paralympic archer, lost in the round of 32 of the men’s individual recurve open event to Lung-Hui Tseng of Chinese Taipei by scores of 27-25, 28-19, 27-24.

Lukow, a member of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, took up archery while rehabilitating from an injury sustained Jan. 30, 2008. An explosively formed penetrator, known as an EFP, in Baghdad, Iraq, forced the removal of his right foot. He learned to walk on prosthetics and braces by retrieving his arrows.