LONDON, England (AFP) — US swimmer Bradley Snyder yesterday won gold in the men’s S11 100m freestyle at the London Paralympics — a year after losing his sight when an improvised explosive device exploded in his face in Afghanistan.
The 28-year-old former US Navy lieutenant won the race in 57.43secs, with clear water between him and second-placed finisher Yang Bozun of China and Hendri Herbst Hendri of South Africa in third.
Snyder was on a tour of duty as a bomb disposal specialist when on September 7 last year a home-made bomb exploded in his face.
The bloody legacy of nearly a decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years have led to a number of wounded former service personnel taking up para-sport.
In the US team, more than 20 of the 227 athletes are veterans, while Britain’s team includes Jon-Allen Butterworth, a former Royal Air Force weapons technician who lost an arm in a rocket attack in Basra, southern Iraq, in 2007.
Butterworth, 26, yesterday won silver in the C4/5 1km time-trial.
British former soldier Derek Derenalagi, who lost his legs when the army Land Rover he was travelling in hit a landmine in Afghanistan in the same year, was due to compete late yesterday in the men’s F57 discus final.
Medics officially pronounced the Fijiborn squaddie dead and placed him in a body bag until a faint pulse was found and he was air-lifted to Britain, where he battled back to health helped by a British military rehabilitation programme.
Top US military officer General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, is head of president Barack Obama’s delegation to the Games in the British capital.
Through programmes like the US Wounded Warrior Project and Britain’s Battle Back, there are increasing signs of the role sport can play to help injured veterans.
Sneyder won all five events at the US Paralympic swimming trials and set a new world best for visually impaired athletes in the 100m and 400m freestyle, prompting high praise from US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta.