— -- Before the Invictus Games even started, Sergeant Elizabeth Marks was ranked No. 1 in the world in the 100-meter breaststroke by the International Paralympic Committee. Her four gold medals won yesterday in the pool at the Invictus Games in Orlando only solidify that title -- although she’ll only be taking three medals of those home with her.
At the award ceremony on Wednesday, Marks smiled and waved in the center of the podium to a cheering crowd after Prince Harry hung another gold medal around her neck for her 100-meter freestyle swim. She then turned and handed that gold medal right back to him, and asked him to deliver it to the hospital in London that she says saved her life at the inaugural games in 2014.
“I gave it to him so that he could help facilitate in getting it to Papworth Hospital, the people who saved my life,” she told ABC News’ Bob Woodruff. “It was premeditated, we had spoken on a different occasion about me wanting to give it to them as a token of gratitude because how do you say thanks to the people that saved your life?”
Marks sustained bilateral hip injuries while on tour in Iraq, undergoing four surgeries in 18 months. While competing at the Invictus Games two years ago, she went into respiratory distress –- almost dying, if not for the staff of the British hospital that will now receive her gold medal. She finished all of her events Wednesday in the pool, and now can enjoy the remainder of the games as a spectator and teammate.
“I’m here for my brothers and sisters. I woke up this morning excited to watch basketball,” Marks told Woodruff with a laugh.
Two years ago, Marks was in a coma; today, she is one of the most successful competitors at the Invictus Games. An active sergeant in the Army, she also continues to train in the pool regularly, and was named to the 2016 U.S. Paralympic Swimming National Team in January of this year.
The closing ceremonies of the 2016 Invictus Games will air live tonight on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. EDT, with performances by Rascal Flatts, Flo Rida, Rachel Platten and other musical guests.