Bradley Snyder, a former US Navy lieutenant, won a gold and silver medal at the Paralympic Games in the freestyle S11 category for the blind and visually impaired swimmers. Unknown to many, the 28 year old managed to escape with his life from the battlefields of Afghanistan to swim for his country. Following his injury, swimming was the sport that helped in his recovery.
“I’m not buried in (the US military cemetery at) Arlington (Virginia), I’m here in London competing. I’m still here. I have a lot of friends who didn’t make it back,” stated Bradley, who served as a bomb disposal specialist a year ago. He was working with the elite US Navy SEALs in Afghanistan when a home-made bomb exploded in his face. Just twelve months later, he was lining up at the 17,500-capacity pool to win himself a spot in the S11 100m butterfly final. However, the incident that left him blinded still remains in his memories.
“I remember the sound of the blast. I could see out of my left eye originally and I looked down and saw I had both my legs, both my arms. And while I was in shock — I was pretty scared — there was a whole bunch of optimism when I looked down and saw that I was largely OK. The toughest days were once I was weaned off everything and once I was active and I started to become aware of my lack of capability. Not being able to get myself around was a real tough blow,” explained Bradley.
One of the toughest things for him is that almost every night, he would have dreams that he is still able to see. “I’ll wake up to the dark. I’ve reconciled it and I’ve got past it. But there are some tough mornings,” he explained. He said that his recovery and return to swimming was largely due to the support he had from family and friends. In fact, he had previously represented the US Navy Academy swim team. In June, he won all five events that he participated in the US Paralympic swimming trials. He even set a new world record for visually impaired athletes in the 100m and 400m freestyle. “Swimming has become a way that I can garner the relevance and success I used to gain from my service,” he said.
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