How did a blind archer set a world record at the Olympics?
On Friday, South Korea's Im Dong Hyun, who is legally blind, set the first world record of the London Olympics, notching a score of 699 out of a possible 720 in the first round of the men's archery contest. It's no fluke — the record he broke was his own and, at previous Olympics in Beijing and Athens, Im helped South Korea's archery team capture gold medals. He's now the favorite to win the individual gold in London, as he progresses to one-on-one knockout rounds. Here, a guide to Im's seemingly impossible feat:
How bad is his sight?
Pretty bad. The 26-year-old has 20/200 vision in his left eye, which means "he needs to be 10 times closer to see an object than someone with perfect 20/20 vision," says Nick Reeves at Agence France Presse. "His right eye, with 20/100 vision, is not a whole lot better."
Does he wear glasses?
No. Im claims glasses only make him uncomfortable, says The Associated Press. Instead, he "relies on distinguishing between the bright colors on the target," with its rings of yellow, red, blue, and black. "With my vision, when I look at the target, it looks as if different color paints have been dropped in water," Im says. "When I look down the range at the target all I can do is try to distinguish between the different colors. If I couldn't see the colors, now that would be a problem."
I'm having trouble believing this.
Believe it. "Im would be hard pushed to read a newspaper at arm's length," says Reeves, "yet has no problem in hitting a target the size of a supermarket grapefruit from a distance of 70 meters." That's about three-quarters the length of a football field.
How does he feel about it?
Im resents the fascination with his myopia. "I don't have a stick, I don't have a blind dog," he says. "It's unpleasant when people say I'm disabled. All this interest in my sight is not welcome."
How have others responded?
With awe. "In a sport that demands incredible focus and sight more than anything else, Im has overcome the strongest of obstacles to throw down archery's finest Olympic effort," says Patrick Clarke at Bleacher Report. Before the opening ceremonies even unfolded, what will surely be one of the games' most "memorable" moments is history.