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Paralympic Champion  

((TRT: 08:00))
((Topic Banner: Achieving Excellence))
((Reporter/Camera: Aaron Fedor))
((Producer: Kathleen McLaughlin))
((Editor: Kyle Dubiel))
((Map: Princeton, New Jersey))
((Main character: 1 male))
((Sub character: 1 female))
(Courtesy: Sara Snyder))
((Brad Snyder, Paralympic Athlete))
I'm incredibly proud to be a part of the Paralympic movement
and it is gaining more and more attention and gaining more
and more steam, not only in the US but globally. I think it's
critically important, really as a societal thing, to look at how
we can reframe the way that we look at disability.
((Brad Snyder, Paralympic Athlete))
The reaction of my friends and family to my blindness was
that they couldn't imagine what my life was going to be like.
And they just feel sorry for me.
((Courtesy: Felix Chen/USOPC))
Paralympics offers us an opportunity to get excited about
wheelchair racing or get excited about blind athletes tearing
down a ski slope or riding a tandem bike at 30, 40 miles [50,
60 km] an hour.
((Brad Snyder, Paralympic Athlete))
I think it's a really important sort of mechanism to have a real
positive, cathartic conversation within our society about
disability. And I'm just so proud that not only are our
Paralympic athletes doing incredible things at the
Paralympics themselves but then that carries out and
permeates throughout our society in a positive way.
((Brad Snyder, Paralympic Athlete))
So, for about seven years,
((Courtesy: Brad Snyder))
I was an explosive ordnance disposal officer in the Navy. I
deployed both to Iraq and to Afghanistan during that time
period. On September 7th, 2011, I was part of an assault
team that was doing combat operations in the Kandahar
province of Afghanistan. At about seven thirty in the
morning, I stepped on an improvised explosive device that
detonated about a foot and a half [half a meter] in front of
me. The really good news is I was able to walk away from
that blast. The bad news is, as a result of the blast injuries I
sustained to my face, I lost my vision permanently.
((Brad Snyder, Paralympic Athlete))
And I'm normally a pretty upbeat positive person. I like to be
a leader in my community and I didn't like that everybody's
reaction to me was that of pity. So, I was looking for an
opportunity to show everyone, in action, that this diagnosis
of blindness was not going to get me down. And thankfully,
sports sort of entered the picture. I was offered an
opportunity to participate in the Warrior Games, which was
((Courtesy: Brad Snyder))
an adaptive event for wounded vets. Determined that I had
the aptitude to be able to get into the Paralympics, there was
a sense of urgency and someone actually along the way
said that I was very lucky to have been injured in a
Paralympic year.
((Courtesy: Felix Chen/USOPC))
((Brad Snyder, Paralympic Athlete))
I did what I could to kind of get into the rankings as a
Paralympic athlete in 2012, and kind of shot to the top and
had the opportunity to join Team USA exactly a year from
the day that I lost my vision. And that really kind of set me on
a new path.
((Brad Snyder, Paralympic Athlete))
I think one of the most difficult things about sustaining a
traumatic injury, like the one that I did with blindness or there
are others, but for me, much of my sense of identity revolved
((Courtesy: Brad Snyder))
((Brad Snyder, Paralympic Athlete))
being in the military, doing a really austere and crazy
mission, having a really kind of expansive set of capabilities,
sort of being someone who could jump out of an aircraft at
high altitudes or dive down to the bottom of the ocean and
do, you know, do missions that no one else was able to do.
Following blindness though, there are, I can't even, I can't
wash the dishes. I can't find my way to the bathroom
sometimes. Just very, very basic things were a major
struggle. And that's a huge blow to my confidence, my sense
of self, my sense of identity.
((Courtesy: Sara Snyder))
((Brad Snyder, Paralympic Athlete))
Swimming, for me, was a way to sort of reorient myself and
go back to something I had done for so long,
((Courtesy: Brad Snyder))
from the age of 11 all the way through college,
((Courtesy: Sara Snyder))
swimming was a big part of my identity and physical activity
was a big part of my identity.
((Brad Snyder, Paralympic Athlete))
Following the Rio Games, I had really accomplished
everything that I had wanted to accomplish.
((Courtesy: Felix Chen/USOPC))
((Brad Snyder, Paralympic Athlete))
But still in my heart, I felt like I was still an athlete and I
wanted to keep going.
((Courtesy: Focal Flame Photography))
((Brad Snyder, Paralympic Athlete))
And so, an opportunity to join the triathlon, join a triathlon
camp emerged in 2017,
((Courtesy: Brad Snyder))
and from the, from day one of that camp, I was hooked on
((Courtesy: Sara Snyder))
The most significant difference between swimming and
triathlon is that I do the entire race tethered to a guide. So, in
the pool, I'm all by myself. I put my head in the water. I swim
my distance, whether that's a 50 meter, 100 meter or 400
meters. And I have no idea what's going on. I have no idea
where my competitors are. All I can control is my line
through the lane, my turns, my pace, my exertion, those
sorts of things.
((Courtesy: David Powell))
So, it's very individually focused, almost exclusively internally
((Courtesy: Sara Snyder))
Triathlon does not allow you the flexibility to do that. There's
constantly variables that you have to adjust to, to react to.
There is a very, you know, there's a big racecourse with a
big field of athletes who are all kind of doing all kinds of
crazy things. There is no lane to keep you separate from the
competitors. So, sometimes you tangle up right off the start.
Sara Snyder: Is Timber being shy?
Brad Snyder: Yeah, Timber was very curious about why I
was doing calisthenics.
((Brad Snyder, Paralympic Athlete))
((Sara Snyder, Wife of Brad Snyder))
I think my family has adjusted to not setting an expectation
((Courtesy: Manda Weaver))
what I or we are capable of.
((Courtesy: Sara Snyder))
I think that I was able to shatter a lot of those expectations
right off the bat.
((Brad Snyder, Paralympic Athlete))
One of the biggest tragedies of this whole thing is that
though my wife and I have trained side by side for three
years, she won't be able to go to the games.
And if anything, I think my family expects me to continue
breaking down those barriers and I feel some level of maybe
not pressure but definitely motivation to continue to break
down barriers as much as possible, not only for myself but I
understand now that, based on the platform I have through
Paralympics, I can be a leader within our community. I can
be a leader within the disabled community. I can be a leader
within the athletic community and a leader for our veteran
((Brad Snyder, Paralympic Athlete))
When I'm not training or competing, I just began a PhD
program here at Princeton. My goal, my new professional
goal is to return to the Naval Academy and teach leadership
and ethics to our midshipmen who have volunteered to serve
their country.
Brad Snyder: Oh man, Im just tired.
((Brad Snyder, Paralympic Athlete))
I kind of want to be the best at everything, whether it's
making pizza or competing in the Paralympic triathlon. I think
this notion of excellence really motivates me. I don't think it's,
when you use the word competitive, for me it's not
necessarily competitive. I'm not looking to beat other people.
I'm looking to do something in an excellent way, in the most
excellent way, so that by virtue of achieving that level of
excellence, I have to beat other people but that's not what
I'm trying to achieve. What I'm trying to achieve is
excellence. And I like having that mindset because on the
racecourse, I'm kind of cheering for everybody else too. I
want them to be excellent. I want them to be their most
excellent self. I just also want my most excellent self to be
better than their excellent self, if that makes any sense.
((Courtesy: Sara Snyder))
((Text on screen:
Brad Snyders Paralympic medals, so far:
2 gold, 1 silver:
2012 London Games
3 gold, 1 silver;
Rio de Janeiro Games))