Navy Lt. Brad Snyder, who lost his sight to an IED while serving in Afghanistan in September 2011, is now a Paralympic Games gold medalist.
Watch Navy Lt. Brad Snyder win a gold medal at the London 2012 Paralympic Games
LONDON – Swimmers Jessica Long and Navy Lt. Brad Snyder were golden Friday at the Aquatic Center. Team USA claimed three swimming medals on the second day of competition, with Long’s world record breaking swim in the S8 400-meter freestyle, Snyder’s first Paralympic gold in the S11 100m freestyle and Elizabeth Stone’s bronze in the S9 100m backstroke.
Long finished more than 18 seconds ahead of the second place finisher, breaking her own world record by two seconds with a time of 4:42:28. “Records are made to be broken,” Long said. This is her second gold medal of these Games.
“When I was 12 I had no expectations, and when I was 16 I put tons of pressure on myself,” said Long, who has won three consecutive gold medals in this event. “Now that I’m 20, I have no pressure. I don’t have anything to prove to anyone. I already have my gold medals, so right now I’m just going out and just having a lot of fun, and it’s working so far.”
With her wealth of experience, Long sets an example for her fellow teammates like Brickelle Bro, who finished fifth in the 400m free just ahead of American McKenzie Coan, who was sixth. “Really it’s inspiring for me,” Bro said. “Hopefully in a few years I can do it again and hopefully win a few medals like Jess.” This was Bro’s only event in her first Paralympic Games.
Making his much anticipated Paralympic debut, world-ranked No. 1 Snyder set a Paralympic record in his qualifying heat Friday morning. He lost his vision in September 2011 after an IED explosion while serving in the United States Navy in Afghanistan.
“It is really hard to imagine I’ve come this far in a year,” Snyder said after his gold medal swim. “People will ask me could I imagine being in the Paralympics a year after being in the hospital and I’ll tell them absolutely not. This whole journey has been one foot in front of the other; each step has held an immense degree of uncertainty even down to this morning. I didn’t know how the swim would go or how my nerves would be in front of all the people. It even carried into tonight but to be able to come out and perform and get to the wall is an amazing feeling.”
The event was certainly no disappointment for Snyder, who came out strong and finished in 57.43. “I have six more events, some better than others, but I’m prepared by good nutrition and good rest,” Snyder said. “As soon as we’re done here we’ll head back, grab some dinner, go to sleep and kind of just get into this rhythm of competition – swimming each morning, swimming each evening – and see if we can keep that performance at a high level.”
Stone’s bronze medal in the 100m backstroke is her second in the event; she won silver in Beijing in 2008. She finished with a time of 1:12:28, behind Australian Ellie Cole, who won in 1:09:42, and Great Britain’s Stephanie Millward.
“This is the event that I medaled in in Beijing, so [it] was one of my focus strokes coming into London. It wasn’t a best time, but I’m happy I got a bronze medal.”
This is Stone’s third Paralympic Games and her third medal overall. She also won a bronze Thursday in the 100m butterfly. “I’ve got a lot of experience now. I kind of know what’s expected in all of this and Beijing was a lot of fun and I got my first Paralympic medal ever,” she said. “It’s given me a good start to the meet and I have three more events.”
Long, Snyder and more than a dozen other members of Team USA will be back in the pool on Saturday morning in 12 semi-final events.