Veteran's Bronze Star Joined by Silver and Gold - Medals from Paralympics
Updated: Friday, February 7 2014, 05:30 PM EST
One Baltimore swimmer is back in the pool with his sights set on gold. Though he can easily outswim challengers and peers alike, on land he is guided by Gizzy, his German Shepherd.
Brad Snyder lost his vision on September 7, 2011 in Afghanistan.
"Unfortunately, I lost complete vision. I have no light perception or anything," Snyder said. "I actually have prosthetic eyes on both sides, so it's completely dark to me."
But it's not something that Snyder lets slow him down, and the Aquatics Manager at the Merritt Athletic Club in Canton, where Snyder trains, can attest to his remarkable talent.
"The first time him swim, I didn't know who he was," Rob Wise said. "I just saw someone that had perfect technique."
Snyder says sightless swimming has its challenges.
"When I'm recovering, I always have a hand out in front," Snyder said. "So, my left arm doesn't start to pull until my right arm is in front of my face."
Lieutenant Snyder was injured in an IED explosion in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Today Snyder lives with and is trained by his brother Russell, in preparation for the Paralympic games.
"I remember basically everything," Snyder said. "I remember running up. I remember the actual popping sound."
After the explosion Snyder still had his arms and legs but was told he'd never see again and that he had a 1% chance of even being able to detect light again.
"To me [it] was a dismal prognosis and was pretty impactful," Snyder said.
The rehabbing Florida native then reached out to Loyola swim coach Brian Loeffler, ahead of a move to Baltimore. One year after tragedy, Snyder's Bronze Star was joined by silver and gold - medals from the 2012 London Paralympics.
"I can't jump out of planes," Snyder said. "I can't scuba dive. I can't do all these other things, but i still wanted to show these people that I'm going to be ok."
Snyder gave the gold medal he won to his mother in Florida.
"Just because there's a challenge in front of you, doesn't mean that you have to shy away from it," Snyder said. "Embrace it. Embrace that challenge. Make yourself better."