Navy Paralympic Athlete Inspires Others to Compete
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
LONDON, Aug. 28, 2012 The opportunity to compete in Paralympic sports allows people with disabilities to re-establish confidence, assist their rehabilitation and revitalize their lives, a member of the U.S. Paralympic Team said here today.
Navy Lt. Bradley Snyder, right, a member of the U.S. Paralympic Swimming Team, is interviewed by Army Sgt. Abigail Waldrop during team processing at the University of East London campus prior to the start of the Paralympic Games, in London, Aug. 28. Snyder advocates wounded warriors using sports to aid their rehabilitation and boost confidence. DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Navy Lt. Bradley Snyder, a member of the 2012 U.S. Paralympic swimming team, took time from team processing at the University of East London campus to encourage wounded warriors to use sports to help them recover, both mentally and physically, from injury.
“Blindness was a tough hand to deal with,” Snyder said. “Everything I tried, to start with, I was not very good at. Cane-walking was difficult. Cooking in the kitchen is difficult. Picking out a color-matching outfit is very difficult.
“Things that are relatively menial become problematic without the use of your sight,” he continued. “So to hop in the pool was something that came very organically to me, having been a competitive swimmer in the past.”
The Navy lieutenant is one of 227 athletes participating in the Paralympic Games, a multi-sport event for athletes with physical, mental and sensorial disabilities held every four years following the Summer Olympics.
Snyder expressed satisfaction from competing and being successful, and how it aided in his recovery after being blinded while attempting to disable an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan on Sept. 7, 2011.
“It was really easy for me to hop in, and get back and forth and feel good at something again,” he said. “It was really good for my rehab, [it] really built a lot of confidence forward, and … all the successes that I have had in Paralympic swimming have given me that feeling of relevance again.”
Being able to represent his country in a different manner also gives him confidence in the other avenues of life, he said.
“So I'm a huge advocate for the idea of wounded warriors getting back into sport,” he added. “It gives you that feeling of relevance and that feeling of success again. And again, it's not relegated to just sports. It trickled down to other avenues of life.”
Snyder said he is transitioning from the Navy to a “purple” world, and swimming has greatly increased his self-confidence.
The Navy lieutenant will swim in the 50-meter, 100-meter, and 400-meter freestyle and in the 100-meter backstroke, breast stroke and butterfly. He’ll also compete in the 200-meter individual medley, swimming each stroke for 50 meters.
Snyder said he captured records for the 50-meter backstroke and 50-meter butterfly during the U.S. Paralympic swimming trials in Bismarck, N.D., in June. “We definitely have our eyes on some other marks throughout the games,” he said, “so hopefully we'll be able to drop some time and do some good stuff.”
Snyder said he began swimming competitively largely as a part of his rehab.
“I was injured last September,” he added, “and at the suggestion of my old swim coach, and a couple of other entities -- the Athletic Blind Association and some coaching down in Augusta, Ga. -- they thought I should get into swimming just to kind of build my confidence back up.”
Snyder said once he identified the Paralympic Games as a viable option, he fully committed himself to being the best.
“I took it relatively seriously, and moved to Baltimore and started training with Brian Loeffler, who's the head [swimming] coach at Loyola University,” he said. “He and I have been working pretty hard over the last few months, and we've been able to make some really good gains in the pool. So [I'm] really looking forward to this opportunity to compete. I think I'm even faster than I was back in June for the trials meet.”
Snyder again credited competitive swimming for the return of his confidence and a feeling of relevancy.
“Doing Paralympic swimming … has allowed me to feel confident when I move into a room and have to a present a proposal or something like that,” he said. “It gives me that feeling of strength, that feeling of confidence I had when I was in the military.
“And it kind of reiterates the idea that I am the person I used to be,” he continued. “I just have to figure out a new way to get around. So that's what sports affords me: that confidence moving into my new jobs and my regular life as a blind person now.”