Dispite challenges, vet competes — and wins!

By Kristi Etheredge

Born Oct. 5, 1948 in the sleepy hamlet of Carlisle, Iowa, John Powell overcame unbelievable odds as a child. Stricken with dreaded polio at the age of four, and spending two years of his young life in an iron lung, he was fortunate enough to eventually recover with no apparent serious after effects. In his late teens, he discovered that he was finally good at something, and that something was shooting; yet finding the correct outlet to channel his talent and pent up energy eluded him. Later in life, putting shooting aside, he searched for a time for something to make himself more than he was. In the ’70’s he joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints — yet that was only one stop on his unending journey in search of self. 

In spite of himself, he could not stay away from sports all the while unknowingly suffering from Cerebral Atrophy, which in his case took the form of severely affecting the center of balance in the brain. Sure steps gradually gave way to a faltering and uneven gait that became more pronounced as the years went by. After being diagnosed at the VA Hospital in Dallas, and being told that his condition would never improve, but only become worse, he became involved with Special Olympics of Texas and other sporting organizations that serve the disabled athlete. Much to his genuine surprise he discovered not only was he good at these sports — he excelled and still continues to do so. His love for sports allows him to have the courage to try them all such as; track, discus, javelin, archery and even golf.

Recent years found him resurrecting his love of shooting and wishfully exploring that sport. Subsequently, in 2005 while perusing the Internet, he stumbled upon the National Rifle Association’s Disabled Shooting Services, and diligently pursued that avenue with enthusiasm. As a participant of the Beeman Tour, he went to Nationals and placed 22nd in the nation. 

The following year at Nationals on the Beeman Tour he placed 18th. Shooting had peaked his interest as a youth, and remained to be his favorite sport of all despite the months of frustration due to the lack of suitable equipment that performed poorly. This left him somewhat jaded despite how much he longed to become a success in competitive air rifle shooting. In 2007, the Beeman Tour was no longer after the retirement of its director Dave Baskin. 

In July of 2008 at the PVA Wheelchair Games in Omaha, Neb., he met a man who changed his shooting experiences for the better. Nico Marcolongo had a booth there representing Operation Rebound, which is an organization that is Veteran Specific. With the help of Operation Rebound, John Powell finally became outfitted with the proper air rifle, and he took second place in the nation; having been beaten by only seven points. 

Now with the aid and support of Soldiers’ Angels of North Texas providing him with access to further train in his craft, he now has his eye on the prize at becoming the number one shooter in the nation. 

After competing at the Thunder in the Valley Games in Michigan, and winning eight medals out of 10 events, he stated emphatically, “Anybody can compete as long as they try hard — no matter what their ability.” 

With his determination, new-improved sense of self, and with the support of his church, family and friends, there is no telling just how far this disabled athlete will go. During the State Fair of Texas each year, Powell spends time at the Texas Vietnam Memorial at Fair Park. Stop by and say, “Hello!”


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