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St. Pete swimmer wins Paralympic medal on anniversary of blinding

TBO.com
Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 11:53 AM

LONDON -- Exactly a year after losing his sight while on military service in Afghanistan, American Brad Snyder captured swimming gold at the London Paralympics by winning the 400-meter freestyle.

Snyder won his second gold of the Games in convincing style, beating Enhamed Enhamed of Spain by nearly six seconds in a time of 4 minutes, 32.41 seconds in front of many of the Navy lieutenant's U.S. servicemen friends.

"It's really great that they were able to make it today and be with me," the 28-year-old Snyder said. "The crowd is so emotional, it's hard to put that out of my mind.

"But after the military, I am conditioned to do that quite well."

Snyder was blinded by a blast after he stepped on an improvised explosive device laid by Taliban while on duty in Kandahar.

Snyder, of St. Petersburg, is one of many servicemen in London using sports to aid their recovery after being injured on the front lines of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

"This was a whim of a dream last February so for it to come true, it is very, very exciting," said Snyder, who has also won gold in the 100 freestyle and silver in the 50. "I am absolutely elated with the outcome."

Also today, Esther Vergeer of the Netherlands won her fourth straight Paralympics title in the wheelchair tennis women's singles with a 6-0, 6-3 victory over compatriot Aniek van Koot, taking her remarkable nine-year winning streak to 470 matches.

Vergeer, who has been No. 1 in the rankings since 1999, required just 59 minutes to wrap up the win at Eton Manor in the Olympic Park.

"I know the day I will lose will come, but I don't know when," she said.

Vergeer needs 86 more victories to surpass what is widely believed to be the longest run of consecutive wins in sport -- 555 by Pakistani squash great Jahangir Khan between 1981-86.

The 31-year-old Vergeer said she isn't ready to retire just yet and that her rivals are "getting a lot closer."

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