LONDON — St. Petersburg's Brad Snyder, a former Navy lieutenant who lost his sight in an IED explosion while serving in Afghanistan in September 2011, won a swimming gold medal in the men's 100-meter freestyle at the Paralympics on Friday.
"It is really hard to imagine I've come this far in a year," Snyder told the U.S. Olympic Committee. "People will ask me, could I imagine being in the Paralympics a year after being in the hospital, and I'll tell them absolutely not. This whole journey has been one foot in front of the other. Each step has held an immense degree of uncertainty, even down to (Friday) morning."
Snyder, 28, who was a standout swimmer at St. Petersburg's Northeast High, set a Paralympics record in winning his morning heat in 57.18 seconds. Swimmers are classified according to how their impairment affects their ability to perform each stroke. His race classification was for swimmers with little or no sight.
"I didn't know how the swim would go or how my nerves would be in front of all the people," he said. "It even carried into (Friday night's final), but to be able to come out and perform and get to the wall is an amazing feeling."
Snyder won in 57.43, 1.18 seconds ahead of China's Bozun Yang. South Africa's Hendri Herbst got the bronze (59.60).
Snyder has six more events at the Games. He is back in the pool Saturday.