Warrior Games athletes draw inspiration from U.S. Navy Lt. Brad Snyder

By Ros Dumlao | May 11, 2013, 11 p.m. (ET)

U.S. Navy Lt. Brad Snyder speaks at the "For A Noble Cause" Brunch
Prior to lighting the cauldron at the 2013 Warrior Games presented by Deloitte, U.S. Navy Lt. Brad Snyder spoke at the "For a Noble Cause" brunch, a joint effort between the United States Olympic Committee and The Royal Foundation to raise support for wounded warriors and all people with disabilities. 

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Angelo Anderson has fond memories of when he first met Navy Lt. Brad Snyder.

“He was wearing glasses, and we all know he’s blind,” said Anderson, a Navy Hospital Corpsman. “So I was like, ‘Brad, why do you have glasses on?’ He said, ‘It’s a disguise.’ That right there just goes to show that despite his injury, he can still laugh about it.”

Snyder made a name for himself at last year’s Warrior Games presented by Deloitte and became a source of inspiration for many of the athletes competing in this year.

Just eight months after losing his eyesight while serving in Afghanistan, he won seven gold medals (four in swimming, three in track and field) at the 2012 Warrior Games, but that was just the beginning.

He went on to the London 2012 Paralympic Games and won two golds and a silver in swimming.

Now, at the Opening Ceremony of the 2013 Warrior Games presented by Deloitte, more than 250 athletes watched as he lit the cauldron alongside fellow swimming sensation, four-time gold medalist Missy Franklin and Prince Harry.

The culmination of achievements since his first Warrior Games didn’t seem to stop, and Snyder said he didn’t plan any of it.

“I hope what people can take away from my story is I didn’t really seek out to do anything that happened last year,” Snyder said. “I’ve said this a couple of times, it still feels like a dream to me; it still feels like I’m going to wake up and be somewhere else and say that was a neat experience.”

But it’s not a dream.

“Competing here last year was a very, very unique opportunity,” Snyder said. “Then right on, it just kept getting better, and it just kept getting better, and all of a sudden, I was in London just blown away to be in the village competing against different countries, and things like that, and it all fell into place.” 

Many athletes returning to compete in the Warrior Games, such as Army Sgt. Ryan McIntosh, have followed his story.

“What Brad went through to go from losing his sight to being in the pool, then London, it’s just phenomenal,” said McIntosh, who will compete in volleyball, swimming, track and field and wheelchair basketball. “If he wasn’t strong willing, then he wouldn’t be where he is today.”

Snyder elected not to swim for the U.S. Paralympics Swimming National Team this season but plans to return to full-time training for the International Paralympic Committee Swimming World Championships next year.

For now, he’s encouraging others to continue to share the inspiration that comes from Warrior Games.

“Missy and I were talking about the motto of the (Olympic) Games, (which) was ‘Inspire a Generation,’ Snyder said.  “The next generation of amazing athletes is in this room. … They’re going to go back to their communities, and the story of the Warrior Games is going to catch on and ignite the flame of a lot of other athletes who are in their little communities, who really haven’t had the idea or aren’t exposed to the idea of Paralympics.”

For more on the 2013 Warrior Games presented by Deloitte, visit teamusa.org/WarriorGames/.