Blind swimmer Lt. Brad Snyder is heading to the London Paralympic Games after formally qualifying Sunday and setting two world records in Bismarck, N.D., last week.
Snyder, who lost his eyes in an explosion in Afghanistan last year, swam 54 seconds faster than his previous best in the 400-meter freestyle — a full 13 seconds faster than he had calculated he needed to swim to qualify.
He set a world record for fully blind swimmers in the process, clocking in at 4:35.62. That was only 1.5 seconds slower than his time swimming for the United States Naval Academy seven years ago, when he still had his sight.
At the same event last week where he set his 400-meter record, he also set the world record for fully blind swimmers in the 100-meter freestyle at 57.75 seconds. He is expected to be a top contender for a gold medal in London for that event, MSNBC reported.
After the race, when the names of those 14 athletes who qualified for the London games were announced, Snyder's name was called 12th. His brother Mitchell walked him over to the group of selected swimmers.
"As I was walking him over, I was just staring down at the floor. I didn’t want to look at anyone because I thought I was going to cry," Mitchell said.
"The moment his name was announced everyone erupted and I guess he got a standing ovation," he added. "He couldn’t see it. And I didn’t want to see it because I thought I was going to lose it.”
Snyder has said before that he hopes his successes would resonate with other disabled athletes.
“All sorts of people have contacted me on Facebook, or by e-mail, or they come up to me in person and say, 'You really inspired us, just by the fact that you’ve moved forward, that you don’t let this thing slow you down,'" he said.
"I want them to see that, hey, you can go out (despite this type of wound) and excel at something – become a really good writer, or a good cook; it doesn’t matter," he added.
Snyder will join a group of about 30 military veterans and active-duty personnel who will represent the United States in the Paralympics this summer.
The Paralympics will take place this year in London from August 29th through Sept. 9th.