Dan Powell: Championing Accessibility in Sport Through His GNR8 Academy

Dan Powell, visually impaired GB Judo athlete, founded GNR8 Academy for accessibility. Inspired by his Paralympian father, he won a Social Impact Award for community work.

Louis Hobbs
Louis Hobbs

Last Updated: 2024-05-31

Naim Rosinski

5 minutes read

Dan Powell, a Great Britain VI Judo athlete and World silver medalist, is on a mission to make sport accessible having experienced first-hand how it can transform lives and provide a positive impact.

Born with a visual impairment as a result of cohen rod dystrophy, Dan has just 2% of his sight and has competed in the sport of Judo since he was 17 years old, as well as para-athletics between 2013 and 2018.

Founding the GNR8 Academy

In 2019, Dan founded the GNR8 Academy in Leicester, a community impact project, where he is now Head Coach and Director alongside his training as an elite athlete. The community interest company prides itself on supporting people in the local community - from isolated parents through to young people with disabilities or additional needs – breaking down the barriers to physical exercise and finding ways that everyone can be integrated. The centre delivers more than 34 sessions a week to its growing community.

Advocating for Equal Opportunities in Sport

Speaking on his decision to set up the GNR8 Academy, Dan said: “Every single person should have the opportunity to enjoy sport, whatever shape, size or colour they are, but also rich or poor. There’s no way that fitness should have a price tag on it – it’s a god given right to be given the advice that you need to keep yourself fit and healthy, both mentally and physically.

“Sport was the only thing that levelled the playing field for me growing up – I couldn’t do the simple things such as turning to a certain page in a math textbook because I couldn’t see the page numbers. Instead, sport taught me how to adapt and be resilient, and it also made me competitive – whether that be on a sporting level, or academic – it was all about challenging myself.”

A Legacy of Strength and Resilience

Growing up in Liverpool with his family, Dan’s dad, Terry Powell was also registered blind and won bronze in judo for Great Britain in the 1988 Seoul and 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games. 

“My dad taught me that my disability shouldn’t get in the way of who I am and what I want to achieve - no matter what, I had to get out of the house and do everything for myself. It’s only now that I thank him for that because it’s made me the person that I am today. I don’t let my disability define who I am.

“Seeing him leave the house in his red, white and blue tracksuit made my brother and I feel like he was a superhero, and now with my little boy Edward, that’s how I want him to feel and my whole perspective has changed because of that. My sport is important, but so is what I achieve outside of that, and how I can help others.”


Image credit: UK Sport

Recognition for Social Impact

In recognition of his commitment to making combat sport and exercise in general more accessible through his charity, GNR8 Academy, Dan was awarded the Social Impact Award at the PLx Awards hosted by UK Sport.  

Dan added: “I was genuinely surprised – I know everyone says that, but I do what I do because I love it, not for recognition. To have that acknowledgement through my peers, with someone else taking the time to nominate me, and then to turn up on the night and win it – incredible. It felt amazing to be seriously acknowledged for the work we do here down at the gym.”

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Louis Hobbs
Louis HobbsLead Journalist

Meet Louis Hobbs, our esteemed authority on all matters sports-related. With a wealth of knowledge and experience, Louis effortlessly emerges as our go-to expert. His particular expertise in the realms of darts and snooker sets him apart and brings a level of insight that goes beyond the ordinary. Louis also holds a deep affection for all things related to US sports, with a special emphasis on basketball and American football, which stand out as his particular favorites. His content may not resonate with you, if you don't consider Lamar Jackson the most skilled player in the NFL.