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Autistic Korean Swimmer Wins Gold, Sets Record

Posted September. 10, 2005 08:08,   


Kim Jin-ho (19, Busan Physical Education High School, second year), an autistic swimmer whose nicknames are “’Marathon Swimmer” and “Forrest Gump,” has won a gold medal at last.

Kim won with a new world record of 2:24:49 in the 200m backstroke at the World Swimming Championships for the Disabled held in Liberec, the Czech Republic on September 9.

Kim’s father, Kim Gi-bok (49, doctor), who had been waiting for the results all night in his office in Anyang, Gyeonggi Province, received the victory call from his wife, Yoo Hyun-gyung (45), at around two in the morning.

“Our Jin-ho has won gold. A gold medal.”

Kim shortened the world record (2:28:05) in this category by more than three seconds. On September 7, the first day of the competition, he had won a bronze medal with a record of 1:07:66 in the 100m backstroke.

Yoo sobbed, “Jin-ho is already exited that his grandfather is going to give him an allowance; I don’t know how I will explain it to him.”

Kim’s family found out about his disability when he was three years old. His parents were distressed, but realized he had a gift for swimming and started to teach him swimming when he was five.

Kim was faced with obstacles as he grew up. He entered an elementary school in downtown Seoul, but within a month the school asked him to transfer to a school for the disabled because they were unable to teach him there,

After inquiring here and there, Kim transferred to Suwon Central Christian Academy, a school that had a special program for disabled students. Then he was sent to Suwon North Middle School, a regular middle school, as a swimming talent.

When Kim was denied admission to a physical education high school around Seoul, his parents searched for high schools around the nation themselves, and after much persuasion, Kim was accepted into Busan Physical Education High School.

In 2002, Kim won gold and silver medals at The Far East and South Pacific Games for the Disabled. In mid-April he set a Korean record (2:23) in the 200m backstroke category at the Dong-A Swimming Competition sponsored by Dong-A Ilbo and held at Jeju.

Dong-Bin Seok mobidic@donga.com