Afghanistan war veteran wins eighth Paralympic medal, first gold in triathlon

Brad Snyder
Brad Snyder(NBC Olympics)
Published: Aug. 28, 2021 at 2:27 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - For retired U.S. Navy Lieutenant Bradley Snyder, the top of the podium is nothing new.

As a swimmer in 2012, Lt. Snyder was first to touch the wall on two occasions- Men’s 100m and 400m Freestyle. Four years later in Rio, he became one of the year’s signature athletes, defending his title in both events, while adding a gold in the 50m Freestyle, all in the “S11” classification, which is for athletes who are visually repaired entirely.

With full eyesight, Snyder was a part of the U.S. Naval Academy’s swim team before graduating in 2006. Soon after, he went on to serve in Afghanistan. On September 7, 2011 he lost his vision after he stepped on an IED in Kadahar, which forced his eyes to be replaced with prosthetics.

Less than a year after the explosion, Snyder turned to swimming and claimed gold at the London Aquatics Centre.

Two years after his success at the Rio Paralympics, Snyder decided to try a new challenge- triathlon. In addition to swimming in open water instead of a pool, he also had to ride a bicycle for 25 miles, and finish the race running 6.2 miles, all with the help of his guide Greg Billington- a 2016 Olympic triathlete himself.

(Visually-impaired athletes often require the help of a guide, preferably with equal athletic ability.)

In his triathlon debut, there was very little competition for Snyder. He maintained the lead from the opening segment, the 750m swim (10:35), on the bike (29.09), and crossed the finish line on foot at 1:01.06, a respectable 55 seconds ahead of silver medalist Hector Catala of Spain.

During his post-race interview, Snyder referenced a popular 1990′s film- which is also connected to the Olympic and Paralympic movement.

“We watched ‘Cool Runnings’ yesterday, and John Candy said, ‘If you make your life about winning, that’s all you can do.’ And my life’s not about winning, it’s about taking on new challenges,” he said.

Snyder has not been the only triathlete to claim Paralympic gold at Odiaba Marine Park. In the Women’s PTS2 event, Allysa Seeley earned her second-straight gold while compatriot Hailey Danz followed up with silver. For both, it was the same outcome from 2016.

As of Saturday, Team USA has won 22 medals in Tokyo- 11 gold, seven silver, and four bronze.

Coverage can be seen across NBC’s various platforms. On Sunday, fans can catch highlights on KCBD 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.- the latter will be the network’s first time to provide Paralympic coverage in prime time.

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