“Cheer for USA!” It is a five-syllable anthem, echoing the sentiment and spirit of Special Olympics USA athletes. Carried by their voices, the words are said, yelled and, for Special Olympics South Carolina athlete Josh Powell, they are sung. Opposite a pin deck, Josh’s talent as a bowler is visible, competing alongside his Unified partner and father, James. Behind a microphone, his talent is audible, with a singing voice that illustrates his pride in representing Special Olympics.
A trained Global Messenger, Josh has spoken and sung in advocating for inclusion on an international stage. He will do so again, this time, representing Special Olympics USA in the Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023.
“Special Olympics is one of those things that’s not just about sports,” said Powell. “It’s about the mindset of being a person who goes out and uses his or her weaknesses to be able to do their best. It gives me strength. So, for me, my disabilities have given me my greatest opportunities in life.”
In the 30 years Josh has competed with Special Olympics, those opportunities have multiplied. Supplementing his two degrees from Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina, Josh is also a classically trained opera singer, an ability he harmonizes with his Special Olympics experience. That harmony is to the tune of the United States national anthem, which he has performed at various Special Olympics-related functions.
Serving as missionaries, Josh’s parents lived in China for a number of years at a local school, which Josh attended. Through a nonprofit contact, Josh was invited to relocate to the Philippines to teach vocal music and English diction. In that time, he was invited to sing the nation anthem at a Special Olympics Philippines event hosted at the United States Embassy. A singer and songwriter from the age of 5, he has never shied from a performance. A Special Olympics athlete from the age of 8, his parents were his greatest influence in gaining the same confidence in a bowling alley.
“Being able to bowl with my dad is such an amazing opportunity,” remarked Josh. “As a kid, my parents bowled in leagues. I was raised in a bowling alley nursery. From the time I was born, they have worked with me tirelessly, so I may have the best life possible. They have been with me every step of the way.”
The morning Josh learned of his nomination to represent Special Olympics USA, his parents stood by his side, cheering for Special Olympics USA. According to his father, “I’m just a typical dad who is proud of his son.”
“Special Olympics is not just about sports,” said Josh. “It’s not just a hobby that’s fun, but we are a dream made manifest. By coming together in Germany, we, as a unified people, can show the world how our unique strengths enable us to do so much more than a lot of people see.”
In Germany, the people will see those strengths, hear those cheers and experience that dream made manifest.