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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Blind swimmer Brad Snyder going for gold at the Paralympics

Olympic swimming looks like incredibly difficult work. In addition to trying to cruise through the water at amazing speeds, swimmers have to somehow figure out a way to see what they’re doing. Four years ago at the Beijing Olympics, Michael Phelps spoke about how challenging it was to win one of his gold medals after his goggles filled with water the second he dove into the pool. What is an already tall task becomes seemingly impossible without vision, which is what makes the story of Navy Lt. Brad Snyder so amazing.

Snyder lost his eyesight a year ago while serving in Afghanistan after stepping on on a hidden bomb. According to NBCNews.com, he initially thought he had blood or dirt in his eyes before his worst fears were realized. On Friday night, Snyder will get back into the pool in search of a gold medal in London — one that would bring his total up to three medals at the Paralympics.

“Yes, I’m really competitive,” Snyder when talking about his desire to win. “The idea that there shouldn’t be anything in the way of barriers presented to you that slow you down. Yeah, (stuff) happens. But I hope this shows the value of attitude, of making a decision to not look back. I made that decision. From that point, it was all just about figuring it out and moving forward.”

Snyder’s mother, Valarie, remembers the phone call she got from Brad’s commanding officer informing her that he was hit by an explosion but was fortunate enough to keep all of his extremities. He lost his vision, but Valarie said Brad assured her from the moment he came out of surgery that his life would go on as normally as possible.

“He keeps saying he’s got to show me it’s not a disability, that he’s going to be fine,” she said. “He’s telling me that I don’t have to worry about him anymore.”

Snyder is the No. 1-ranked blind swimmer in the world. He said he uses mental images and visualizes the pool, the lane lines and the crowd each time he swims. The fact that he has been able to reach such heights merely a year after losing his vision is an accomplishment that can barely be put into words.

“From the moment I step up on that starting block, I just want to beat everybody in the pool,” Snyder said. “But once I’ve hit the (finishing) pad, once the race is over, it all goes back to just being an amazing experience.”

Slowly but surely, we’re starting to understand that amazing Paralympics advertising campaign. Meet the superhumans, indeed.



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