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Presenter of top Paralympian award vows to win battle vs. Alzheimer's

All News 14:13 March 16, 2018

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea, March 16 (Yonhap) -- Whang Youn-dai, 79, has suffered from polio almost her entire life and has been fighting Alzheimier's disease in recent years.

The South Korean doctor, however, said Friday she will keep working for people with impairments as she waits to present the top Paralympians award, named after her, in her home country for the first time in 30 years.

She will present the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award to New Zealand's para alpine skier Adam Hall and Finnish para Nordic skier Sini Pyy at the closing ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Paralympics on Sunday.

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) established the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award at the 1988 Summer Paralympics in Seoul to recognize Whang's lifelong contributions to people with impairments. The award, which was named the "Whang Young Dai Overcome Prize" until 2006, has been presented to two athletes -- one male and one female -- at the end of each Paralympic Games. It honors Paralympians who best exemplify the spirit of the games and Paralympic values.

South Korean doctor Whang Youn-dai (C) speaks during a press conference at Main Press Centre in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, on March 16, 2018. (Yonhap)

During a conference announcing the winners of the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award at PyeongChang 2018, Whang admitted that she has been battling with Alzheimer's disease for the last three years, but said she will not go down.

"Everyone suffers pain in their lives," she said.

"But the will to overcome that pain is a gift to humans. I still have strength to overcome any kind of adversities, so I think I can win the battle (against Alzheimer's)," she added.

Whang contracted polio when she was three years old, which caused a limp in her right leg. She worked as a doctor and founded Jungnip Center, the first social welfare center for the disabled in South Korea, in 1975. She later served as the chief of the Korea Employment Agency for the Disabled and mayor of the athletes' village during the 2014 Asian Para Games.

During the closing ceremony in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, Whang will receive a medal and special accolade from five previous winners of the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award, including Kim Mi-jeong, the only South Korean athlete to win the award.

"I hope athletes can become those who can inspire young people with disabilities," she said.

kdon@yna.co.kr
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