Five years after losing his eyesight in Afghanistan (the Navy lieutenant stepped on an explosive device while trying to help bomb-blast victims), swimmer Brad Snyder is set to add even more Paralympic medals to his collection. Before the three-time medalist hit the pool in Rio de Janeiro, he shared 25 interesting facts about himself exclusively with Us Weekly.
1. When I’m alone I sometimes talk in funny cartoon voices to my dog or sometimes just to myself. The problem is that I’m not always good at telling whether or not I’m alone, so that has made for a few embarrassing instances when my roommates catch me making my funny voices.
2. I am fiercely independent, so much so that I ran away from home twice when I was 6 years old just to prove that I could live on my own. (I couldn’t.)
3. I hate strawberries. I also hate anything that is strawberry-flavored. If something has touched a strawberry, I probably won’t like it either.
4. I started playing guitar when I was 11. I’m no Jimi Hendrix, but I hope to one day play a live gig somewhere.
5. I am right-handed. I do everything that way, though from time to time I give my left hand a pep talk so it doesn’t feel left out.
6. I won third place in a toothpick bridge building contest in high school, and afterword I decided that I wanted to become an architect.
7. Also in high school, I submitted artwork to be displayed in the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. My submission made it to the finals, but it wasn’t picked. My mom likes it, though!
8. The US Naval Academy was the only Division I swimming program that recruited me, so I went there.
9. They didn’t have an architecture major at the Naval Academy, so I settled on Naval Architecture, figuring it was basically the same thing. It is not.
10. I won exactly one race my entire collegiate career, which was my first race against the Army. If I had to pick just one race to win, I would have picked that one!
11. I received demerits and served “restriction” at the Naval Academy for skipping class — twice.
12. Despite my shenanigans, I was one of 15 midshipmen in my graduating class of nearly a thousand to be selected to join the Explosive Ordnance Disposal community in the Navy, which is a fancy way of saying the “bomb squad.”
13. For my first inspection in the Navy as a commissioned officer, I was wearing two left shoes. It’s a long story, but I will tell you that I passed the inspection!
14. In 2007, I completed the Great Floridian Triathlon, which is an Ironman-distance race conducted near Orlando every year.
15. In 2009, my team and I were featured on a Discovery Channel show called Surviving the Cut.
16. I attended Military Free Fall School and learned how to jump out of a perfectly good airplane. Over the next two years, I would jump more than 50 times. It’s a bucket list item for me to complete a solo sky dive while blind.
17. I am not afraid of many things, but I am very much afraid of cats. … I don’t understand them. … What is their mission?
18. I have always been a dog guy. My dog, Gizzy, is a beautiful long-haired German shepherd.
19. In 2012, Eone Timepieces, a startup based in D.C., named their flagship product, a tactile wristwatch, after me! The Bradley timepiece is a unique watch that uses two rotating ball bearings that you can touch to tell the time instead of the traditional hands of an analog clock.
20. After the injury I sustained in 2011 that resulted in the loss of my vision, I received two prosthetic eyes. They are painted to look exactly like my sister’s eyes!
21. If you catch me in a bad mood, it’s probably because I just had a great idea only to find out that it’s already a thing. That happens to me way too much.
22. I have two food weaknesses: Coca-Cola and spaghetti. I could drink Coke with every meal, and I would be perfectly content to eat spaghetti for every meal.
23. I secretly yearn to be named the next Bachelor. Don’t tell anyone. Unless, of course, you know Chris Harrison.
24. I was the flag bearer during the conclusion of the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. I then had the distinct honor and privilege to present that same flag to President Obama when we returned to the U.S.!
25. I recently wrote a book called Fire in My Eyes: An American Warrior’s Journey from Being Blinded on the Battlefield to Gold Medal Victory.
To learn more about all the Paralympic athletes, visit TeamUSA.org. The Paralympics begin on September 7.