Tag Archives: Rio Paralympics

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.

WCAP NCO wins gold by smashing Paralympic swimming record

By PABLO VILLA
NCO Journal

She continues to make her Marks.

Sgt. Elizabeth Marks, a medic and Paralympic swimmer who is part of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program of Fort Carson, Colorado, offered a reminder of why she’s captured the world’s attention this year with her performance Saturday at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The 25-year-old set a new world record en route to winning a gold medal in the women’s 100-meter breaststroke. She finished the race in the SB7 division, a disability swimming classification, with a time of 1.28:13, more than four seconds ahead of her American teammate Jessica Long, who won silver. Lisa Deb Braber of the Netherlands took bronze.

“I had no idea (I was winning),” Marks told reporters after the race. “I can’t see when I am swimming. About 25 meters in I have no idea where anybody else is. As long as I feel pressure on my hands I know it is going well. I was just hoping for the best and putting everything I had into it.”

Marks’ impairments stem from the bilateral hip injuries she sustained while deployed as a combat medic to Iraq in 2010. She underwent several painful surgeries and exhaustive rehabilitation before finally being deemed fit for duty in July 2012. Along the way, Marks took up swimming as a means to assist in her recovery. She was pushed to compete in her newfound sport when she saw the hope it offered her fellow wounded Soldiers.

But her health suffered another setback in 2014. Marks traveled to London in the fall of that year to compete in the inaugural Invictus Games when she collapsed with respiratory distress syndrome. Her condition worsened and she was eventually taken to Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, England, and placed on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, life support to help her breathe. She missed the Games, but Marks said later that she was fortunate to be alive.

A month after her ordeal in England, Marks was swimming again. Two months after leaving the hospital, she broke an American record in the SB9 200-meter breaststroke.

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)

Marks made international headlines earlier this year for her gesture of immense gratitude and humility at the Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida.

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

Marks wanted Prince Harry to deliver the medal to the hospital that helped save her life. Her request was honored June 1.

In July, Marks became the first active-duty service member to be presented with the Pat Tillman Award for Service at the ESPYs, an awards show that recognizes grand achievements in sports.

Now, two months later, she is a gold medalist and world-record holder in her Paralympics debut. And she may not be done yet. Marks is scheduled to compete in four other swimming events during the games beginning with the S8 100-meter backstroke Tuesday.

Archer remains in hunt for medal

Staff Sgt. Michael Lukow’s aim was true.

The infantryman and Paralympic archer in the WCAP advanced to the medal rounds of the men’s individual recurve bow competition after his performance Saturday.

Lukow advanced past the ranking round with a score of 577, the day’s 23rd best mark. He will face Lung-Hui Tseng of Chinese Taipei in the round of 32 on Tuesday.

Saturday also saw Staff Sgt. John Joss compete in the mixed R3 10-meter rifle prone competition. Joss did not qualify for the medal round but his time in Rio is not complete. He will compete in the mixed R6 50-meter rifle prone competition Wednesday.

 

WCAP NCO, 2016 Paralympian will receive Pat Tillman Award for Service at ESPYs

NCO JOURNAL STAFF REPORT

The accolades keep coming for Sgt. Elizabeth Marks.

Marks, a combat medic and member of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program of Fort Carson, Colorado, just finished securing her spot during the weekend on the U.S. Paralympic swim team that will compete at the 2016 Rio Paralympics in September. The honor, the first for a WCAP swimmer, comes less than two months after Marks made international headlines for a gracious gesture after claiming her fourth gold medal at the 2016 Invictus Games.

This week Marks — who is ranked No. 1 in the world in the 100-meter breaststroke — will be in the limelight again when she is presented with the Pat Tillman Award for Service during the 2016 ESPYs in Los Angeles. The awards show, which recognizes grand sports achievements, will be broadcast live at 8 p.m. EDT Wednesday on ABC.

“The Pat Tillman Award for Service honors those individuals who inspire us with their service and selflessness,” said Connor Schell, senior vice president, ESPN Films and Original Entertainment, who oversees The ESPYs. “Sgt. Elizabeth Marks — this year’s recipient — is an athlete of remarkable courage and perseverance who has made extraordinary sacrifices in her own life to help others and serve our country.  She represents the best of our country and we are proud to present her with this award.”

Marks grabbed worldwide attention in May after she was decorated with her final gold medal at the Invictus Games in Orlando. The award was presented by Prince Harry, the British royal 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 25-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.

“It’s the only thing I could give to thank them for saving my life,” Marks said.

Her request was honored June 1 when Harry presented Marks’ gold medal from the 100-meter freestyle event to doctors and nurses from Papworth Hospital during a ceremony at Kensington Palace in London.

Marks’ gesture, along with the courage she has shown in the face of adversity as well as her unwavering commitment to her country, is in line with the ideals of the Pat Tillman Award for Service, said Marie Tillman, president and co-founder of the Pat Tillman Foundation.

“Pat lived his life with passion, intensity and a commitment to help others live up to their potential,” Marie Tillman said. “As a combat medic and now world-class para-swimmer, Sgt. Marks embodies the same strong sense of duty – challenging herself, fellow soldiers and her teammates, physically and mentally, to push limits and achieve their best in spite of injury or other setbacks. In Pat’s name, we’re proud to present the Tillman Award to Sgt. Marks for her service, leadership and incredible poise as she represents Team USA.”

The award was established in 2014 to commemorate the former NFL player and U.S. Army Ranger’s legacy. It is meant to honor an individual with a strong connection to sports who has served others in a way that echoes the legacy of Tillman. Marks will be presented with the award in conjunction with the Pat Tillman Foundation, a national leader in providing academic support and scholarships to veterans, active-duty service members and their spouses. Past honorees include U.S. Paralympic gold medal sled hockey player and Purple Heart recipient Josh Sweeney (2014); and former Notre Dame basketball player, Iraq war veteran and Purple Heart recipient Danielle Green (2015).

Marks joined the Army at age 17 in July 2008 in Prescott Valley, Arizona. She 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.

“I’m just grateful,” Marks told the Army News Service. “I’m excited that I get the chance to represent the United States of America’s colors in any way that I’m allowed.”

John Cena will host Wednesday’s telecast, which will be at the Microsoft Theater. The list of award presenters includes Stephen Curry, Lindsey Vonn, Dwyane Wade and J.J. Watt.