Dan Powell, a British Judo Para athlete from Loughborough, has been announced as the Social Impact Award winner at UK Sport’s PLx Awards 2023 for his commitment to making combat sports more accessible.
Born with a rare genetic eye condition known as Stargardt disease, 32-year-old visually impaired judoka has utilised his disability, combined with his international sporting career, to enhance opportunity within the combat sports community.
Powell got into the sport following in the footsteps of his two-time Paralympic bronze medal-winning father, Terry Powell. Since entering the British Judo set-up, he has gone on to achieve a silver at the World Championships in 2022 and European silver the year after and has become the most recent athlete representative on the International Blind Sports Federation Athlete Council.
In 2019, Powell founded his charity, GNR8, based in Loughborough which aims to help children from low socio-economic backgrounds, as well as those with visual impairments like himself, to get into combat sports.
Powell, through his charity, is aiming to make the sport he loves more accessible for young people from all walks of life where they might not have the opportunity otherwise.
GNR8 offers classes and holiday camps for children on a part or even fully-funded basis – dependant on the financial situation of the child’s family. The charity is also working to support with the recent government ‘Get Active’ strategy, striving to get over one million children across the country to get more active and engaged in sport by 2030.
In response to his award win, Dan Powell said: “I always talk about putting different hats on, so when I’m in the dojo I’ve got my Judo hat on, when I’m in the gym I put my work hat on, when I’m at home I have my Dad hat on, without the team that I’ve got, the amazing people at British Judo, without all of these people around me helping me to spin all these plates I would be lost without them. They help my world go round.
“I make the life of the staff at British Judo hell. I turn up on the mat and give the best performance that I can and that’s led to some amazing achievements in the last few years (if I do say so myself), but I couldn’t do half the stuff I do without all the team in the background helping us get from A to B. even today trying to logistically put together being here when we’re at 6.30 tomorrow morning we’re travelling to Japan. It’s madness but we get it done because it’s what we love, it’s our passion, our sport.
“I grew up on a council estate in Liverpool, you know sport especially performance sport is not looked at, at all. Being given the opportunity to perform in my sport isn’t an opportunity I can give back but it’s an opportunity to enable young people to do the best they can and see all the benefits of sport that I have.”
The PLx Awards celebrated the high-performance sporting community in the UK and their contributions as an individual, team, sport, or event during 2023. The winners were announced at an awards ceremony in Stratford-upon-Avon on 28 November.