Brad Snyder won gold the first time he entered a pool for a Paralympic competition nine years ago, and he repeated that feat Saturday morning the first time he stepped on a Paralympic triathlon course.
Both times, Snyder had never before won a major international competition in the respective sport.
One of the most recognizable U.S. athletes competing at the Tokyo Paralympics, the U.S. Navy veteran won gold in the men’s PTVI classification (for athletes with a visual impairment athlete) just three years after switching sports from swimming to paratriathlon.
His gold is the first medal by an American at the Olympics or Paralympics in a men’s triathlon event. Paratriathlon debuted five years ago in Rio, where there was a visually impaired event for women, but not men, making Snyder the first visually impaired man to medal in the sport as well.
His best results in paratriathlon prior to this weekend included bronze at a 2019 ITU World Paratriathlon Series event and gold at this year’s Americas Triathlon Para Championships. He was sixth at his World Championships debut in 2019.
Snyder and guide Greg Billington, a 2016 Olympian, led the race from start to finish and crossed the line in 1:01:16, nearly a minute ahead of Spain’s Héctor Catalá Laparra (1:02:11). Satoru Yoneoka took bronze in 1:02:20 in his home country.
Now 37, Snyder first made global headlines at the London Paralympics when he won a gold medal in the 400m freestyle S11 on the one-year anniversary of the day he was blinded by an IED explosion in Afghanistan. He also won the 100m free and was runner-up in the 50m free in 2012. Four years later, he won gold in the 50, 100 and 400 freestyle races, plus silver in the 100m backstroke, in Rio.
Snyder is now is eight for eight, medaling in every Paralympic event he has entered, and two for two in Paralympic sports.
“It’s a big moment, obviously, because you spend so much time visualizing and hoping and preparing for it,” Snyder told media of his paratriathlon victory. “Just like in Rio and just like in London, there’s no way you can possibly imagine how good it’s going to feel – and it was really a good feeling.”
The other American in the men’s PTVI race, Kyle Coon, finished fifth in 1:03:00. Coon was also racing with an Olympian as his guide: Andy Potts. Potts was 22nd at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and won the Pan American Games gold three years later. He is also a decorated IRONMAN competitor with eight wins and 11 total podiums from 2010-2019.
Earlier in the morning, Allysa Seely and Hailey Danz repeated their gold and silver medals from five years ago in the women’s PTS2 race when they were part of a historic U.S. sweep. They are the first Paralympic triathletes to earn multiple medals, and, four days into competition, Seely is the first American who won gold in 2016 to repeat in her event in Tokyo.
Seely – who almost missed the Games after spending a large part of 2020 in hospitals with leg infections, a blood clot in her heart and an endocarditis infection – dedicated her win to the two Afghanistan athletes who were slated to compete in Tokyo until the Taliban took control and they were unable to leave the capital city of Kabul.
“I really just want to dedicate this win to everybody who have ever been told they can’t, especially to the Afghani Paralympians whose dreams were not able to be fulfilled today,” she said.
Melissa Stockwell, the first U.S. woman to lose a limb in the Iraq war, rounded out the Rio sweep with bronze but finished fifth this time. The 41-year-old served as Opening Ceremony flag bearer in Tokyo with wheelchair rugby player Chuck Aoki.
Frenchman Alexis Hanquinquant won the men’s PTS4 gold in his Paralympic debut after taking the last three world titles.
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