Elizabeth Marks is back at the Paralympic Games, although with a different purpose this time.
The 2016 Paralympic swimmer who won a gold and a bronze medal in Rio was named earlier this week as part of a Presidential Delegation that will attend the Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.
The six-person delegation, which is led by Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen, will attend Friday’s Opening Ceremony and events to follow.
“It’s an absolute honor,” Marks told U.S. Paralympics. “I can’t believe they’re allowing me to come support my country and my brothers and sisters. It’s just an honor.”
Marks is one of two with deep Olympic or Paralympic connections on the delegation. The other is John Bardis, who serves as assistant secretary for administration at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
In addition to that role, Bardis is also a leader with USA Wrestling who served on the board of USA Wrestling from 1997-2011 and was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2013 as an Outstanding American.
The other members of the delegation are Marcia Lee Kelly, deputy assistant to the president; Marc E. Knapper, chargé d’affaires ad interim, U.S. Embassy Seoul; and General Vincent K. Brooks, commander of United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command, and United States Forces Korea.
As is often the case, the U.S. Paralympic Team features a strong military presence. Of the 74 athletes who qualified for Team USA, 18 have also represented the U.S. as military veterans or active duty service members.
Marks shares that background, too. The Arizona native is a sergeant in the Army and competes as part of the U.S. Army’s World Class Athlete Program.
“Considering there’s such a high number of athletes with prior service it’s also very special, but all of the athletes are part of the Paralympic family,” Marks said.
The Paralympics open on Friday and end on March 18. As part of the delegation, Marks will have the opportunity to cheer on her fellow Team USA members and friends and experience the Paralympics as a spectator rather than a competitor.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “Coming to watch athletes compete, especially people I know and care about, is special for me. It’s more special to get to watch people succeed and achieve their dreams than it is to get to do it yourself so I’m very excited.”