WASHINGTON – The United States had the Olympic performance of Baltimore native Michael Phelps to celebrate last month, and now the nation can rejoice in the dominating performance of U.S. Paralympic swimmer Navy Lt. Bradley Snyder.
Snyder carried over his strong performance in June’s U.S. swimming trials by setting a Paralympic record in his qualifying event here Aug. 31 for the 100-meter freestyle and earning a gold medal in the final round.
“It's really crazy. … It's really loud in here,” Snyder said following his record-setting qualifying swim. “It's exciting. We were able to go out and do what we were wanting to do. I was pretty happy to go out and get the time I got tonight.”
After Snyder swam the 100-meter freestyle in 57.18 seconds to set the Paralympic record, he reflected on the feeling of stepping out in front a huge crowd to represent the United States, saying it was “a huge comfort” getting into the water. “I've never walked out in front of this many people,” he said. “[It's] very crazy, and a lot of excitement. The second I hit the pool, it felt natural again. It felt like I was in my zone, so it felt really good.”
After earning gold medal in the final round for the 100-meter freestyle, Snyder admitted he was a bit nervous.
“It was great – absolutely great,” he said. “There was a lot of uncertainty this morning, a lot of nerves, coming out in front of a crowd this size. It was pretty daunting.
“I kind of underestimated that a little bit,” said he continued. “But once I hit the water, I felt really comfortable and really loose. I was able to get a swim in this morning, and then backed it up tonight. I'm glad to have touched the wall first. I'm really glad to set a precedent that hopefully will last through the week. And I’m glad to represent Team USA.”
The Navy lieutenant, who was blinded while attempting to disable an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan on Sept. 7, 2011, will now face what he considers his flagship event on the anniversary of the accident.
“The anniversary of my accident will be next Friday,” he pointed out. “I'll be competing in my primary event – 400 freestyle. I'm really looking forward to it.”
Brian Loeffler, the U.S. Paralympic swimming team’s coach, explained how he and the Navy lieutenant came together in the first place.
“Brad moved to Baltimore, and it's been a great experience,” he said. “I coached a blind athlete before in Philip Schultz, so I was thrilled when I heard Brad was moving to Baltimore.”
Loeffler echoed Snyder’s assertion that the upcoming 400-meter freestyle is his strongest event. “I'm thrilled he won tonight,” the coach said after Snyder earned the 100-meter gold medal, “but we've really been focused on that 400. Today is gravy in terms of the additional medal spot.”