Elizabeth Marks Tallies Team USA's First Medal in the Pool on Opening Night in Tokyo

by Matt Whewell

TOKYO — Three-time Paralympian Elizabeth Marks (Colorado Springs, Colorado) dashed to a silver medal in the women’s 50-meter freestyle S6 final after touching the wall in 33.15 on day one of the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.

Marks, who won a gold medal in the 100-meter backstroke and a bronze medal in the 4x100-meter medley relay at the Paralympic Games Rio 2016, came into the evening’s final with the top seed having set a Paralympic record of 33.16 earlier in the day. Despite bettering that time by .01 seconds, Ukraine’s Yelyzaveta Mereshko was to the right of Marks and splashed out a 33.11 for the top time.

Other top U.S. finishers on the opening night of racing include first-time Paralympians Lawrence Sapp (Waldorf, Maryland) and Gia Pergolini (Atlanta, Georgia), who finished fifth in the men’s 100-meter butterfly S14 and women’s 100m butterfly S13, respectively. 

Coming into tonight’s final with the third-fastest qualifying time, Sapp got out to a fast start and was in first at the 50-meter turn, but Brazil’s Gabriel Bandeira powered through the second half for a Paralympic record of 54.76. Sapp’s time of 57.36 was just less than half a second off of the podium.

Like Sapp, Pergolini came out fast in her first half of her race, a heat that also featured U.S. teammate Makayla Nietzel (Crystal Lake, Illinois). The 17-year old on the top outside lane stayed with the pack and trimmed over a second from her morning’s swim touching the wall in 1:06.46. Nietzel, swimming in the other outside lane, finished in 1:08.00 for the seventh fastest time.

Summer Schmit (Stillwater, Minnesota) and Natalie Simms (Edina, Minnesota) opened up the final’s night for the U.S. in the women’s 400-meter freestyle S9. The Minnesotans, who live about 90-minutes apart, finished side-by-side as first-time Paralympian Schmit placed seventh in 4:56.92 and two-time Paralympian Sims finished eighth in 4:58.55.

In the morning’s opening preliminary session, first-time Paralympian David Abrahams (Havertown, Pennsylvania) placed ninth in the men’s 100-butterfly S13 by swimming a time of 1:00.69. In the women’s 100-meter butterfly S13, Martha Ruether (Allegany, New York) swam a 1:13.08 for thirteenth place. Paralympic rookie Keegan Knott (Lake Villa, Illinois) went 5:00.92 for twelfth place finish in the women’s 400-meter freestyle S9. Matthew Torres (Ansonia, Connecticut) finished tenth clocking 1:01.35 in the men’s 100-meter freestyle S8.

Competition continues tomorrow with another full day of racing. Preliminary heats begin at 8 p.m. EST and finals begin at 4 a.m. EST. All races will be live streamed through, Peacock and the NBC Sports app. A full schedule of events is available here.



- Elizabeth Marks (women’s 50m freestyle S6)

Elizabeth Marks

It’s kind of a newer event for us and my coach has been very patient with me, so we’re still in the learning phase, but we swam our best race.

The people of Japan have been very welcoming and very kind. Everyone has been extremely gracious, and they really do try to make you feel at home, so it’s been very lovely. It’s gorgeous and a beautiful facility. The temperature is great for me. Everyone has different preferences. I prefer a little bit warmer water, so it’s nice that this is a nice neutral. I think everyone is happy.

Lawrence Sapp

I was a little tired near the end. I took fifth because of those last 25-meters when [Benjamin James Hance and Naohide Yamaguchi] went right by me. I tried to keep up with Reece Dunn and Gabriel Banderia so I could get a medal, but next time. It was a tough race. I just need to keep my head up and I’ll do better next time. I’m looking forward to my next races in the 100m back and 200m medley.

Gia Pergolini

Personally, I felt great. It was such an amazing opportunity racing in this pool. I was able to drop a second from my time this morning, so that was kind of crazy. During the last 25-meters I was just thinking to myself ‘come on, do it.’ This was a preparation swim for me—I love the 100m fly—but seeing how well I did tonight really sets me up for the 100m back.”


For full results from Tokyo 2020, please visit

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