It was something out of a fairy tale or a Hollywood movie. The legally blind archer, Korean Im Dong-hyun breaks a world record, and not any world record, but one he had already set back in May. The Olympics is made to showcase this kind of unbelievable and remarkable feel good story.
But maybe there is a reason it sounded scripted for Hollywood or something out of a feel good children’s tale.
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The word spreading days after Im’s world record breaking performance is that news sources exaggerated the extent of the archer’s visual impairment. Even as the corrections come pouring in, there seems to be dispute on how well Im Dong-hyun can actually see.
Im Dong-hyun has stated he doesn’t like the focus to be on his vision and doesn’t want to be labeled as “disabled.” Is his protest due to the fact the label is inaccurate or does he want to be appreciated for his skill rather than anything he may be overcoming?
He broke his own world record in the 72-arrow mark during the individual ranking round and was also part of breaking a world record in the team shoot. He scored a 699, which is 3 points higher than his previous world record in individual competition, and then along with partners Kim Bub-min and Oh Jin-hyek bested the previous team world record by 18 points. Being the first to break a world record at these games is a great story, but it was made even more intriguing when it was reported he was legally blind.
Right after the record setting performance, Im through an interpreter stated the colours on the target appear blurry, but he doesn’t even need glasses for driving or reading unless he was tired. The story changed slightly when he later said that he has 20% vision in his left eye and 30% vision in his right eye. As the story picked up, both Im and his coach laughed off the talk that he had problem seeing the target and stated he’d be in the Paralympics if he was really legally blind.
Im has argued against any talk of blindness but there are South Korean reporters that dispute this. Some reporters claim Im can’t recognize them even if they’re close to him. Is this a matter of the media just trying to create a legend and force a heartwarming tale of overcoming physical adversity? Or is Im downplaying his visual impairment due to disability having a social stigma?
The one clear fact is that Im Dong-hyun is an ace archer. He has a strong chance of giving Korea a gold medal in the men’s individual archery competition. He has made it to the quarterfinals where he’ll meet Rick Van Der Ven of Netherlands on Friday August 3.
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(Image courtesy of NBC)