Former bomb-defuser inspires at Paralympics

Gold medalist Bradley Snyder of the United States poses following the medal ceremony for the men's 100m Freestyle.
Getty Images\Mike Ehrmann

(CBS News) LONDON - The Paralympics are underway in London and 20 American veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are competing.

The wonder of many of these athletes is not just how fast they go - for at least one, it's how fast they got here.

Bradley Snyder is now a Paralympic champion swimmer. Exactly a year ago, he was championing another cause: the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan.

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His job was defusing the Taliban's deadly hidden bombs. The one he didn't see was the last time he saw anything.

"I recall the entirety of the event," Snyder said. "I remember the actual blast itself, I remember waking up on the ground."

He still had a little bit of vision in his left eye right after the blast, but shortly thereafter it went away.

"[I'm] still looking for it," he joked.

Snyder, 28, was on the Naval Academy swim team while he was at Annapolis. Within five weeks of being blinded by the blast he was back in the pool.

"It started as just a friendly, 'Oh, lets show my family and friends that I'm ok,' show everyone that I can go and still do the things that I used to enjoy," he said.

For Snyder, swimming was natural.

"Saying 'hey, you're actually still good at something,' you know, and that was an amazing experience." Snyder said.

More amazing is what's happening in London.

He won gold in his first race, the 100-meter freestyle. In his second race, the 50-meter freestyle, he won silver.

But these are more than just swim races.

"To be able to hop into the pool and experience success on the level that I've experienced here at the Paralympics just gives me an immense amount of confidence moving forward into life," Snyder said.

Bradley Snyder will race his strongest event tomorrow, a year to the day since the blast that blinded, but did not stop him.

  • Mark Phillips

    Mark Phillips is CBS News senior foreign correspondent, based in London.