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Athlete Spotlight – Elizabeth Smith: Making a Splash

January 11, 2022 | Story by Megan Trexler | Commander, Navy Installations Command

WASHINGTON – AZ3 (Ret.) Elizabeth “Ellie” Smith joined the U.S. Navy in 2016, leaving for boot camp less than three weeks after graduating high school. Smith shared her decision to join the Navy, “I’ve always had a desire to serve. The Navy offered me everything I wanted to do.”

On Valentine’s Day 2017, Smith was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma, a cancerous tumor that starts in the lower back part of the brain and spreads through cerebrospinal fluid. Smith’s mom and non-medical attendant (NMA), Stacey Smith said, “(Ellie) is so strong. She never ceases to amaze me! Her drive, will, humor, and faith are huge.” Stacey Smith continued, “She has come so far since being diagnosed with cancer.”

After learning that Smith was a competitive swimmer, her Navy Wounded Warrior non-medical care manager encouraged her to participate in the adaptive sports program. Smith said, “I learned so much about myself at that first camp. I realized that I could still do things. I could still find myself in sports – even if it looked a little different.”

One year after completing treatment, she participated in the 2019 Navy Team Trials and was selected to represent Team Navy in the Department of Defense (DoD) Warrior Games in Tampa, Florida.

Smith shared that she’s always loved swimming. She said, “I am in the pool at least an hour every day. I have been swimming competitively since I was 5.” She earned a bronze medal in swimming during the 2019 DoD Warrior Games.

She expressed that since her diagnosis, she feels at home in the pool because it’s where she “feels the most normal.” Smith shared, “I am grateful that I can continue swimming at a competitive level through the adaptive sports program.”

Smith was slated to compete in archery, cycling, field, shooting, swimming, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby in the 2021 DoD Warrior Games.

Navy Wounded Warrior is the Navy’s sole organization for coordinating the non-medical care of seriously wounded, ill and injured Sailors and Coast Guardsmen and providing resources and support to their families.

The Warrior Games are a Paralympic-style competition among more than 200 wounded, ill and injured service members from all branches of the U.S. military, as well as from international armed forces. The 2021 Department of Defense Warrior Games would have been hosted at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida from September 12-22, 2021. The invitation-only event was going to feature 12 sports: archery, cycling, field, golf, indoor rowing, powerlifting, shooting (precision air), sitting volleyball, swimming, track, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby. The 2021 DoD Warrior Games were canceled due to ensure the safety, health and well-being of our service members and local communities as the COVID-19 Delta variant continues to affect the country.


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