Blind Baltimore Paralympian qualifies for Rio games

Posted at 10:13 AM, Jul 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-05 10:13:45-04

Brad Snyder, a Navy veteran, professional swimmer, gold medalist and sponsored athlete qualified for four swimming events in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio. He's also completely blind.

Sept. 7 is a meaningful date in Snyder's life. In 2011, it was the day he lost his sight. A year later, it was the day he won a gold medal and this year it'll be the second time he represents the United States at the opening ceremony for the Paralympic Games in Rio.

“I swim as a blind swimmer, I train here at Loyola University in North Baltimore, and we compete across the world,” said Snyder.

As accomplished as he is, Snyder has only been competing in the last four years.

“In September of 2011, I was deployed with a special operations team to Afghanistan and two of the Afghan partner forces that we were working with were really badly injured in an IED blast, improvised explosive device that blew up on the ground. In the ensuing effort to render aid and get those guys evacuated, I stepped on another bomb that was in the ground,” Snyder said.

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It detonated a short distance in front of him, saving his limbs and life, but it also severely damaged his face and eyes.

“I'm completely blind, I actually have two prosthetic eyes,” said Snyder.

He credits his training in the Navy with helping him overcome this next challenge. He said he used the same skill set and tools to create a new vision and path for his life.

“We found adaptive sports as a means to kind of rebuild my self-image, self-perception, and help me get back on my feet as a citizen really,” Snyder said.

Snyder's not adapting, he's excelling. He took home two gold medals and one silver medal in the Paralympic Games in London and he's positioned to do it again in Rio.

“What I want to do is inspire people to embrace challenge as an opportunity to grow and develop,” Snyder said.

Also joining him on the 2016 U.S. Paralympics swim team is his roommate, Lizzi Smith.

“I'm going to be swimming 100 fly, 100 back, 200 IM and 50 free and my goal is to come home with a medal,” Smith said.

This will be her first time competing in the Paralympic Games.

In a little over two months, the two Canton roommates will be representing the United States on an international stage, but in the meantime they're sticking to a strict schedule.

“Train, nap, train, eat, sleep,” Smith said.

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Snyder has also been nominated for an ESPN ESPY award as the best male athlete with a disability. Voting runs through July 13, click here for the link.