London 2012 Judo Paralympian discusses changing lanes to sprinting ahead of Rio

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Spirit in Motion. The motto of the Paralympics but also the personal battle of every athlete and disabled person in the country everyday against their impairment or disability.

Liverpool's Dan Powell, who competed in the London 2012 Paralympics in Judo, finished 7th as his fighting spirit – literally – pushed him to compete among the best in the world as an athlete and not a disabled athlete.

Despite his success, Powell has made the dramatic decision to change sports and begin competing in athletics and has his sights firmly set on Rio 2016.


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Dan suffers from a visual impairment from a hereditary disease called cone-rod dystrophy that runs in his family and affects his central vision severely.

“My disability has never got in the way of me doing anything and I refuse to be judged on my disability and only by my abilities,” affirms Dan who, like many who suffer from a disability, strives to be accepted as a person and an athlete rather than one suffering from a severe condition.

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London 2012 was a stand-out year for para-athletics where record crowds and coverage showed how much the international public care for a competition and its athletes previously considered an afterthought to the Olympics.

“In 2012 I qualified and competed in the 2012 London Paralympic Games finishing 7th. Competing in a home games was unbelievable – having thousands supporting you and shouting your name, I'll never forget the crowd singing, 'let's go Daniel, let's go!' it was incredible.”

Dan's father, Terry, was a World Champion Judoka and also competed for Great Britain in three Paralympics in Seoul, Atlanta and Sydney and encouraged Dan to train in Judo.

Dan's breakthrough performance came in 2009 at the World Youth Games in Hungary where he won the silver medal before winning bronze at the German Open in 2011.

The 23-year-old made his Paralympic debut in 2012 alongside older brother Marc, has now decided to throw in the Judogi and pick up his running spikes, switch to the track and compete in sprinting.

“I left judo in 2013 because I was home sick for many years training in the national training centre in Kent for four years. I moved home but soon found myself needing an outlet for my competitive nature.”

After just six weeks of training, Dan had met the European qualification criteria for the 100m, 200m, 400m and long jump but failed to be selected for Team GB.

The move to the track was justified as last year Dan was scouted and taken on by the British talent development team and overcame the European Championship disappointment by finishing the season in remarkable style under the guidance of coach, Paul Boyce.

“Last year I finished the 2nd fastest 100 and 200m runner with my impairment in the UK and finished the fastest 400m runner in the UK and as the second fastest 400m runner in the UK ever. This put me finishing in 15th in the world.”

The hope for this year is to make the IPC World Championships in Doha, Qatar, as a member of the Great Britain team but will need the funding to do so.

Last year, Dan relied on family and friends for funding via an online talent backer scheme to put money towards coaching, equipment, competition entries, accommodation and travel expenses but this year Dan has no sponsor funding.

If he makes the team for Rio, Dan will be walking out into the 60,000-seat Olympic Stadium – currently home to Botafogo football club – to take his place on the starting blocks.

“I've always believed in hard work over talent and I'm working my hardest to get to the Rio 2016 team.”

He trains at Liverpool Harriers and Honorary Secretary, Arwel Williams is confident Dan will be successful:

“If Dan maintains his commitment to his training which I have no doubt he will do; then he should do well.”

Dan is still searching for funding and will accept any public donation to help him on his way to Rio and says a podium would be his greatest way of saying thank you.

“Any support or funding would be such a huge help on my road to Rio. Currently I am completely non-funded and pay for my own coaching, competitions, travel, accommodation, trips, training camps and all equipment such as trainers, clothes and spring spikes.”

In a penultimate year, Dan hopes that funding and continued success on the track will keep his spirit in motion ahead of 2016.

To donate to Dan's athletic and Rio 2016 hopes, contact him via email on or follow him on Twitter @Dan_Dash_Powell to keep up to date with his training and sprinting.

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