A blind Paralympic judo athlete is hoping a fast-growing community hub he has created in Leicestershire can help the sport to capitalise on interest that is generated from Paris 2024.
Daniel Powell – who has stargardt’s disease and has limited peripheral vision – is one of the judoka who is targeting a spot with Paralympics GB in the French capital in the summer in the J1-90kg category.
And while the 32-year-old – who is based in Loughborough – is personally targeting a judo gold medal at the third time of asking after finishing seventh in London 2012 and Tokyo 2021, he is hoping the global event will go on to achieve bigger things for the sport he loves.
GNR8 Academy and Phoenix Judo Club were launched by Daniel in 2021 after he defied the odds to overcome a serious elbow injury and represent Paralympics GB at the Tokyo Paralympics.
The Academy – which incorporates his judo club – is based at New College Leicester, and has grown to around 200 members in two years where people of all ages and backgrounds can participate in a range of fitness and sports classes.
Daniel, who recently collected the UK Sport PLx Social Impact Award for supporting disadvantaged communities, said: “British Judo rescued me when I was in a dark place during my late teenage years mixing with the wrong crowds – so I want to be able to provide the same opportunity to other young people out there to show them that they can use the sport to combat troubles they are facing.
“I grew up working in a dodgy shop in Liverpool when I was 17 to representing Paralympics GB in some of the best places on earth, so I have experienced first hand the benefits that sport can bring – and I want to impart that knowledge to the next generation to help them break down whatever barriers they feel they may face.
“Judo is a fantastic sport as it helps to channel aggression in a positive way. It’s one of the few sports where you can have a hands-on fight with someone else – with an emphasis on boundaries and rules – and it’s these boundaries that really helps to teach discipline and self-regulation.
“More importantly though, my academy is about providing access to judo and sport to all members of the community – regardless of their ability, disability, or financial status.
“The judo class now has around 50 regular participants – one of which is a young lad with Down’s Syndrome and he absolutely loves it. His mother told me that before finding Phoenix Judo Club she could not find anywhere else in the community where he could just join in with other people and not feel like his disability was a barrier – and that is what it’s all about for me.”
With Paris 2024 fast approaching, many athletes would be tempted to fully focus on the task in hand but for Daniel, GNR8 Academy is what provides balance to his life alongside being a dad to his four-year-old son, Edward.
“Although I’m a full-time judo athlete I still personally deliver most of the sessions – it reminds me of why I’m doing what I’m doing – which is to inspire others to follow in my footsteps,” he added.
For more information about GNR8 Academy visit www.gnr8academy.com