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US gold medalist returns medal to Prince Harry

These Invictus Games have been full of touching and inspiring moments. Yesterday, after winning gold in swimming for the 100-m freestyle for the United States, Sergeant Elizabeth Marks, (25), asked Prince Harry to return her medal to the medics from Papworth Hospital in Cambridge who saved her life in 2014. The combat medic, who was injured in Iraq in 2010, was all set to compete in the inaugural Invictus Games when she fell ill after arriving in London.

Marks said about her last almost-Invictus experience: “I landed in London and became very ill very rapidly, I was in hospital in London and went into respiratory distress syndrome, they shipped a team down from Papworth who put me on to ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) life support and that ultimately saved my life. And when they did so I was on it for 10 days and ended up waking in an army hospital in Germany having no idea what had happened. But they absolutely saved my life and I can’t thank the UK enough for having that kind of medical support and taking such good care of me.

She had this to say about being in Orlando: “It’s just an honour to be here and stand next to all the other soldiers, I can’t think of anything else I’d rather be,”

She continued, expressing her concerns about competing again in the four swimming events which she medaled in: “I was a little apprehensive, I was nervous because of what had happened last time but I was eager to perform and show my team and show the other countries how much I love their support. When I came out of my coma to see all the pictures of them supporting me while I was there, without even knowing I was in that state, made me cry like a baby so it was a chance to give something back.”

Prince Harry initially refused to accept her medal after placing it around her neck after the race. He met up with SGT Marks in the swimming competitors pool tent where Marks approached him again with her gold medal. After a lighthearted moment where she zipped the royal up in her training jacket, she once again attempted to hand him her medal. This time, he accepted it.

To the hospital staff across the pond, she had these words: “So I gave Prince Harry one of my medals and hope it will find its way back to Papworth. Thank you. I’ll never be able to repay you, but what you’re doing is wonderful.” SGT Marks will be heading to Rio later this summer to compete in four swimming events in the Paralympics to be held there after the close of the Olympic games.

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