Navy Lt. Claims Gold A Year After Going Blind
One year ago today, Navy Lt. Brad Snyder lost his sight due to an IED explosion in Afghanistan.
The last thing Snyder remembers seeing is his intact arms and legs after stepping on a bomb in an Afghan farm field. After feeling the extreme heat of the blast on his face and being hurled back, Snyder’s first instinct was to look to look down and make sure he still had all of his limbs. According to NBC News, this only gave Snyder temporary reassurance. Snyder comments on what happened:
“That gave me positive reassurance everything was going to be OK. Shortly after that, my vision went away. I thought maybe blood or dirt had dripped down over my eyes,” said Snyder, 28, a former bomb defuser. “And then it was black, just black, the same way I see now. It didn’t occur to me until the fifth day in the hospital that I wasn’t going to see again.”
Today in London, Snyder did not let the anniversary of his blindness deter him from diving blindly into the pool and winning his third medal at the 2012 Paralympics. At the end of the 400-meter freestyle final, Snyder touched the wall nearly six seconds ahead of the runner up, Spain’s Enhamed Enhamed. Snyder finished the race in four minutes, 32.41 seconds, a personal best, but it was an even larger span of time, 365 days, that truly motivated him and fueled the best race of his life.
Snyder has won two gold medals and one silver medal.
“It’s not a poor anniversary and I’m really looking forward to celebrating how far myself and my family have been able to come over the past year,” Snyder said from the Olympic Aquatics Centre pool deck. “It’s a special night for all of us, (including friends and family who cheered from the stands). We are going to look at this evening as a celebration. A celebration of conquest if you like. We are all happy to be together, being in London and enjoying the experience.”
Snyder swam for three reasons. He swam for victory. He swam for inspiration. He swam for love.
He wished to inspire more people that have had hardships in their lifes to not give up and to not let things get in the way.
“The idea that there shouldn’t be anything in the way of barriers presented to you that slow you down. Yeah, (stuff) happens. But I hope this shows the value of attitude, of making a decision to not look back. I made that decision. From that point, it was all just about figuring it out and moving forward.”
Snyder explained that he had one of the best support systems when he went blind, so he really wanted to win for them as well.
“My support network really came to bat for me when I was down. My mom, my brothers and sister were at my side. My Navy friends demonstrated their commitment to me. So I feel an obligation to reciprocate that commitment, to show them I appreciate the love. I want to prove to them — and myself — that I can experience success on a level I experienced before, even though I am now blind.
“Competing (today) was the pinnacle of that.”