When you think of swimming, who do you think of? Michael Phelps? Me too. But there is a name that is bubbling up in the world of swimming – Brad Snyder. What makes Snyder so unique? He is completely blind. Synder’s inspirational story is one made for the big screen and right now the world is watching as he competes in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
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Synder is a U.S. Navy veteran who lost his eyesight while serving in Afghanistan in 2011. In the navy, the swimming phenom used his eyesight as a U.S. Navy Explosive Ordinance Disposal Technician (EOD) to find, disarm, and dispose of explosives. One day an explosion from one of the bombs blinded Snyder, but that hasn’t stop him from making a big impact in a way that is inspiring people across the world.
As a former captain of the Naval Academy swim team, Synder was already familiar with high-intensity, competitive swimming but what happened only one year after his explosion shocked the world. Snyder won three medals in the 2012 London Games (two gold, one silver).
“I got blown up, I lost my sight, and I started to swim again,”Snyder said, who now has porcelain prostheses. “Maybe that’s a good story. But there’s a whole lot more that matters.â€
The modest athlete has already won the 400-meter men’s freestyle and silver in the 100-meter backstroke.
Snyder says competing isn’t easy and often times painful but he loves it. “Yeah, everything hurts but it is a really good feeling. It burns but the crowd energy is so high and you are going so fast. It is a good hurt. I love that feeling.”
He says even the simplest things such as putting toothpaste on a toothbrush or finding his food on the plate can present challenges. One such challenge is that he still has vivid dreams but when he wakes up he is back in darkness. His mother encouraged him with a different perspective. Instead of saying he loses his eyesight in the morning, he should look at it as he gains to back every night.
“I will not let my blindness build a brick wall around me,” Snyder says on his website. “I would give my eyes one hundred times again to have the chance to do the things I have done, and the things I can still do.â€
We are cheering for you Lt. Brad Snyder!
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