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Blind navy officer wows at Paralympics

09-07-2012 10:26 BJT Special Report:2012 Paralympic Games |

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After years of conflict in the Middle East, these Paralympics have seen an increase in the number of military men and women, injured in combat, who are now meeting a whole new challenge. Among the veterans competing this summer is the United States’ Bradley Snyder and he does so, less than a year after losing his sight on the battlefield in Afghanistan. Peter Koveos has his story.

It was September 7th that Bradley Snyder’s life changed. While on a routine patrol in Kandahar an I-E-D is set off, injuring two Afghan soldiers. As he is deployed to help the wounded, another bomb is set off -- a mere four feet in front of him.

Bradley Snyder, Paralympic gold medallist, said,"I had kind of thought I was dead, but once the moment extended, I realized that I was probably not dead and actually my vision was still there. So I was able to actually look down and see that I had both of my legs and both of my arms and so I started to have a lot of optimism early on that the injury was probably not as extensive as I had potentially seen in others."

But Snyder would never see again. Doctors had to replace both of his eyes with prosthetics. He returned to the US to begin his recovery. An avid swimmer as a child, the former officer finds solace in the water.

Bradley Snyder, Paralympic gold medallist, said,"I am learning how to walk again,I’m learning how to eat things again. It’s really hard to slice up a steak when you can’t see where it is. So to hop back in the pool was a really organic experience. It was really something that I felt comfortable at."

What began as a way to cope with blindness, became a new mission -- to swim at the paralympics in London. He is one of 20 veterans to serve in Iraq or Afghanistan to compete for the US at the Games.

And he is still getting accustomed to swimming without sight.

Bradley Snyder, Paralympic gold medallist, said,"Physically I’m not really detrimented at all and my stroke is very much the same as it was when I was a sighted swimmer,. But my biggest challenge is to doctor my techniques so that I stay out of the lane line and if I can stay crash free then I can be pretty quick."

He has mastered his stroke, winning gold in London in the men’s 100-metre freestyle, setting a new paralympic record in the process.

He also grabbed silver in the men’s 50-metre freestyle.

And on September 7th a year to the day he lost his sight he will swim in his favourite event -- the 40-metre freestyle.

Bradley Snyder, Paralympic gold medallist, said,"What I hope to do is utilize the Paralympics as a platform to inspire other military members and to inspire others with disabilities to get out there and pursue success in other avenues. Life happens, a lot of tough stuff happens but a favorite quote of mine from a friend that I lost in Iraq was "tough times don’t last, but tough people do". I think that, you know, hopefully this story shows people that there is no reason that they can’t go out and experience the happiness that they want to experience through all of the things that they want to do.

Editor:Qin Xue |Source:

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