In Sept. 2011, U.S. Navy Lt. Bradley Snyder was blinded when he stepped on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan while trying to help victims of another bombing.
Today, the Afghanistan war veteran is a top U.S. Paralympics swimmer, winning gold medals in the 100- and 400-meter freestyle and silver in the 50 at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. He also holds several world records in swimming for visually impaired athletes.
His extraordinary achievements after suffering permanent injuries in battle earned the 28-year-old Snyder the United States Sports Academy’s 2012 Juan Antonio Samaranch International Olympic Committee President’s Disabled Athlete Award Wednesday. The Academy’s Samaranch Disabled Athlete Award is presented annually to an athlete who displays courage and desire in the face of adversity, achieving the goals set forth in sport.
“I greatly appreciate and am deeply honored to receive this award,” said Snyder during the presentation of the award Wednesday, Feb. 6 at an U.S. Naval Academy swim meet. Snyder received the award from Al Cantello, a longtime Academy national faculty member and current Navy cross country coach.
Snyder, still an active Navy lieutenant, won gold in the men’s 100-meter freestyle (S11) after setting a Paralympic Record of 57.18 seconds in the preliminary heat. The following day, he won a silver medal in the men’s 50-meter freestyle by setting an American record of 25.27. Later that week, Snyder struck gold again in the men’s 400-meter freestyle with a time of 4:32.41 on the exact one year anniversary of his injury.
For his amazing performances, members of the 2012 U.S. Paralympic Team selected Snyder as the United States’ flag bearer for the closing ceremony of the Paralympic Games.
Snyder of St. Petersburg, Fla. competed in May at the Warrior Games presented by Deloitte in Colorado Springs, Colo., where he won four gold medals in swimming and three gold medals in track and field. It laid the groundwork for his impressive run to the Paralympic Games.
In June, at the U.S. Paralympics Swimming Trials in Bismarck, N.D., Snyder won the 400 free by beating his personal best time by 54 seconds to set the world record among S11 swimmers with a time of 4:35.62. In addition, Snyder set the world record for the 100-meter freestyle.
Snyder plans to train for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.