Korean archer Im: more than meets the eye

Tue Jul 10, 2012 7:32am BST

Im Dong-hyun of South Korea takes aim during the men's team archery gold medal match against Italy at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, in this file photo taken August 11, 2008. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich/Files (CHINA)

Im Dong-hyun of South Korea takes aim during the men's team archery gold medal match against Italy at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, in this file photo taken August 11, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Ruben Sprich/Files (CHINA)

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(Reuters) - South Korean archer Im Dong-hyun is so accurate with the bow he could probably hit a bulls-eye from 70 metres away with his eyes closed. Given the fact he is legally blind, shooting with his eyes wide open would hardly make a difference.

The former world number one and double Olympic gold medallist has compensated for his poor vision with an amazing consistency, reproducing the same drawing action over and over again in training to imprint it into muscle memory.

The 26-year-old, who won gold in the team event in Athens and Beijing, has learned to "feel" the shot to such an extent he spurned offers of laser surgery to correct his vision.

Im suffers from strong myopia but refuses to wear corrective lenses when he shoots as they make him uncomfortable.

"I don't have any problem or difficulty when I shoot, so I don't wear glasses. The target looks somewhat unclear, but it's not much of an inconvenience," Im told Reuters.

While Im has slipped to number two in the world behind American Brady Ellison, the South Korean has been in devastating form in the lead up to the Olympics and will be the favourite for the individual gold medal in London.

Im broke his own 72-arrow world record at the Olympic test event at Lord's by shooting 693 last October, then improved that mark again to 696 at a World Cup event in Turkey in May.

Im said Ellison had benefitted from the training of South Korean Lee Ki-sik, who became the U.S. team coach in 2006.

"I think he has been taught systematically, including basic skills, since he met a Korean coach. I believe he has good 'feel' as an archer now," Im added.

While South Korean men have dominated the team archery event, winning gold in Sydney, Athens and Beijing, the individual title has always eluded them.

Im plans to change that in London, but even if he fails to win the gold he has no plans to hang up his bow.

"I have never thought about retiring. I will keep being an archer for as long as I can until I achieve my goals. I have no plan to retire at all," added Im.

However, he confirmed he would be making one big change after London.

"The rumour is true. I will get married when the Olympic Games are over," he said, adding that a date for the wedding had not yet been fixed.

"My girlfriend was an archer as well and I met her during my college days. She's not an archer any more, she's a school teacher."

(Editing by Ossian Shine)

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