One year ago, U.S. Navy Lt. Bradley Snyder stepped on an improvised explosive device laid by the Taliban near Kandahar and the blast blinded him. At the time, Snyder was trying to help victims of another bombing.
Today, the Afghanistan war veteran is a top American Paralympic swimmer, winning gold medals in the 100- and 400-meter freestyle and silver in the 50 at the 2012 London Paralympic Games. He also holds several world records in swimming for blind athletes.
His extraordinary achievements after suffering permanent injuries in battle have earned the 28-year-old Snyder the United States Sports Academy’s 2012 Juan Antonio Samaranch IOC President’s Disabled Athlete Award. The Academy’s Samaranch Disabled Athlete Award is presented annually to the physically or mentally challenged athlete who displays courage, desire, and athletic ability in the face of adversity to achieve the goals set forth in the athlete’s particular arena of competition.
Snyder received his award during a presentation Wednesday, Feb. 6 at an U.S. Naval Academy swim meet. He once served as captain of the Midshipmen’s swim team and graduated from the Naval Academy in 2006. Al Cantello, a longtime Academy national faculty member and current Navy cross country coach, made the presentation as Navy swim coach Bill Roberts looked on.
“I greatly appreciate and am deeply honored to receive this award,” Snyder said. “It was great to have the presentation in such a nostalgic location, and it was great to be there with my old coach!”
Snyder, a Navy lieutenant, won his medals in his first Paralympic Games in front of many of his U.S. servicemen friends. They watched as he won gold in the 100-meter freestyle after setting a Paralympic Record of 57.18 seconds in the preliminary heat. The following day, he then 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.
For his amazing performances, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) gave Snyder the honor of serving as the United States’ flag bearer for the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Snyder plans to compete at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Snyder, of St. Petersburg, Fla., competed in May at the Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colo., where he won four gold medals in swimming and three gold medals in track and field. 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 blind swimmers with a time of 4:35.62. In addition, Snyder set the world record for the 100-meter freestyle.