Invictus Games: US Swimmer Gives Back Gold Medal

Elizabeth Marks heads to a gold medal in the women's 100 meter LC freestyle ISB race at the Invictus Games, Wednesday, May 11, 2016, in Kissimmee, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Elizabeth Marks heads to a gold medal in the women's 100 meter LC freestyle ISB race at the Invictus Games, Wednesday, May 11, 2016, in Kissimmee, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Elizabeth Marks earned her fourth gold medal in swimming in the 100-meter freestyle Wednesday at the Invictus Games at Disney World.

She gave it back to Prince Harry, with the intention that he take it to Papworth Hospital near London.

"They saved my life," said Marks, an Army sergeant.

Marks arrived in London for the first Invictus Games in 2014 but went into lung failure and respiratory distress before having the chance to compete. Marks was placed on a life-support machine called ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation).

"I remember going to the hospital and feeling very ill," she said. "I just remember being very tired and not really knowing what was going on and confused. I didn't know what had happened until after I was taken out of my induced coma in Germany."

Marks' other golds came in the 50 free, 50 backstroke and 50 breaststroke. She is a Paralympian and the first female swimmer in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program.

Keepsake photo

Retired Army Sgt. Monica Southall repeated as the Invictus Games champion in the shot put and discus Tuesday. She recounts how she got a picture with Prince Harry:

"I was at the awards pit waiting for a box for one of my medals when I saw him. He was speaking with somebody, so I waited a second. Then I called out, 'Your royal highness,' and he gave me a hug.

"I said, 'You didn't present my medal,' but he said, 'Give me a second. I'll be right back.' He had to present the medals. He was coming back toward me, but everyone was grabbing him to do different things.

"He was about to walk off again. I said, 'Aww, man,' and he said, 'Hold on, guys. I promised her a picture.' He turned around, and he gave me my picture. He said, 'Can I hold your medals?' When he is in the picture, he is holding the medals, and we snapped the photo.

"He didn't have to come back. He kept his word, and it meant more than anything to me."

True champion

Tim Payne had both legs blown off in Afghanistan in 2011. The next year, he became addicted to painkillers. In 2013, he was suicidal. On the day he retired from the Army in 2014, his brother-in-law fell off a cliff and died.

Payne has endured 100 blood transfusions and 120 surgeries. On Wednesday, he took four swimming medals, including gold in the 100-meter freestyle.

"I punched [the wall] as hard as I could, because I didn't know if the guys next to me were there," he said of the 100 finish. "I didn't know how close it was. When I noticed I was in first place, I just grabbed onto the bars on the [starting] block, and I threw my arm in the air and cheered really loud."

He earned the right to yell as loudly as he wanted.

Super cut

Robbie Gaupp's allegiance is not hard to spot.

The retired Army sergeant from Gatesville, Texas, has a unique haircut, with the words "I AM" and "USA" shaved into opposite sides of his head and a mohawk on top.

"This has been a thing I have been doing for about a year now," said Gaupp, a three-sport Invictus Games athlete. "I love it. It is very unique. I always say, 'If you look good, you run good. If you look good, you play good.' "

The haircut is working. Gaupp won gold in sitting volleyball Tuesday night.

Quick hits

Actor Michael J. Fox attended the medal round in sitting volleyball Tuesday night at HP Field House. He was in Orlando to speak at a convention. ... Javier Rodriguez of St. Cloud and R.J. Anderson lost 6-0 to a team from New Zealand in the semifinals of wheelchair tennis... . The U.S. and Denmark advanced to the wheelchair rugby final Wednesday night. The United Kingdom beat Australia 47-4 for bronze.

She said it

"I like to see events like this, because it opens people's eyes. Not a lot of people are used to seeing amputees swimming and winning races. It broadens your mind. They worked really hard, no matter their circumstance, and that is really encouraging." -- Aspen Hancock, who attended the swimming competition. Hancock is a friend of Invictus Games athlete Anthony Rios.

He said it

"I have got multiple injuries from head to toe, and people ask me, 'What would you have done different?' I don't know that I would have done anything different. I did everything I was supposed to do, and the career came to me the way that it came to me. I would love to go back and do it all over again. I wouldn't change a doggone thing." -- retired Army Master Sgt. Rhoden Galloway

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