‘Legally blind’ archer sets world record

Im Dong-Hyun has sightedness problem and it qualifies him as legally blind in sporting archery.

Written by Shivani Naik | Published: July 27, 2012 10:00:14 pm

He shrugged off the first world record at the 2012 London Games with a phlegmatic frown and dropping of shoulders,and walked off without so much as a smile,forget a whoop. Koreans don’t look at short-terms.

Im Dong-Hyun can’t see short distance. That qualifies him as legally blind in sporting archery. His sightedness problem means he can’t see your face even if you are standing right in front of him. He tends to fall over and stumble. But that didn’t stop him from setting a new world record even before the opening ceremony took off in London. He shot 699 for 72 arrows in the men’s individual ranking round,pipping team-mate Kim Bubmin who notched 698 — both bettering the previous mark.

But the Koreans prefer not to make too much of his “legal blindness”. In fact,they firmly believe good eyesight has nothing to do with excelling in archery. It’s much like golf — your ability doesn’t depend on how far you can see the drive you are expected to make,but how well have your muscles memorised repeating that action over and over again.

“He has problems seeing at short distance,and he is not permitted to drive. He can’t enjoy reading. But sure,he can shoot in archery,” said his Korean coach after the world record.

Im Dong-Hyun,who was born with the defect,came to prominence in the early 2000s and is now a multiple record holder.

It helps that in the Korean system of archery,the athlete is expected to simply come to the range and shoot,while technical experts fix and finetune the bowstrings and other nuances. “All they do is ‘shoot’. We don’t worry them with adjustments,so that’s never been a problem,” the coach said. “It’s about how much he trusts the technical coaches,and that trust is absolute.”

Another coach agreed with this stress on consistency,saying archery was not quite about precision in sighting as it is made out to be. At 70 metres,that would be steep even for a perfectly sighted person. “It’s about muscle memory,” saud the coach.

Team Great Britain coach Lloyd Brown,an American national,has another interesting take on the archer. “You need to only know that he’s a great archer. His sighting problem will not affect his technique,” he said.

“It’s in fact an advantage. Because sometimes,archers try too hard,scrunching their eyes to focus on the target than on relaxing the body. The tension is not good for technique,and it in fact must be helping him to not be overly concerned about zooming on to the target,” Brown added.

When Im Dong-Hyun started the day today,he was still trailing his team-mate. “He just zoomed ahead in the end,” the coach said,recalling that he had shot a previous world mark here at Lord’s,and was quite at home at this venue.

Among others,it is he who could be awaiting India in the coming rounds.

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