South Korean Im Dong-hyun is one of the best archers in the world. He was a member of the Republic of Korea’s gold medal winning archery teams in 2004 and 2008. He’s got a World Championship trophy at home and World Cup individual gold medals.
He also couldn’t read the words your screen— even if they were in Korean. He couldn’t read them with his nose inches away from your monitor.
Im has 20/100 and 20/200 vision in his right and left eyes and is legally blind. At best, he would see a fuzzy E-shaped blur at the top of an English vision chart. Without vision correction, Im wouldn’t be allowed to drive in America.
The simple solution for Im would be to wear corrective lenses. However, he forgoes any form of visual aid during competition. He steps up to compete against the best in world and he can’t fully see what he’s aiming at.
He describes the way he sees on the target this way: “[they look] as if different types of paint have been dropped in water. The lines are blurred.”
Apparently Im can hit the center of those blurs better than everyone else on the planet.
According to Im, he relies on other senses to hit bullseyes. “For me, seeing the target and not seeing the target doesn’t make any difference. When I look down the range at the target all I can do is try and distinguish between the different colors.” Furthermore, Im says he relies on “very sensitive muscles” and is careful to avoid any sport or training that might build on the wrong muscles because that might have a negative impact on his archery.
While Im’s story is nothing short of inspirational, the world almost didn’t get to share in it. He almost gave up archery in his teens. “I thought I was just another ordinary archer. I had not won any medals,” Im told Eurosport, adding “I just wanted to go back to life as a normal student.”
Fortunately, Im’s parents encouraged him to try and remember the feeling he had when he was just getting started and learn to enjoy the sport.
Im hasn’t taken his eyes off the target since.