Born: June 25, 1947
Known for: A Mira Loma High School graduate, John Powell won two Olympic medals in the discus and won the national discus championship seven times.
Background: Powell began his discus career as the fourth-best thrower on the American River College track and field team. A shot-putter at Mira Loma, Powell switched to discus during his freshman season at ARC. Powell threw the discus 141 feet as a college freshman in 1966. He reached 164 feet the following season, competed at San Jose State University and improved each of the next nine years, culminating in his world-record throw of 226 feet 8 inches in 1975. He then won bronze medals in the 1976 and 1984 Olympics in Montreal and Los Angeles, respectively. He won the national discus championship in 1974 and 1975 and from 1983 through 1987.
A highlight: Summarizing his discus career, which spanned more than two decades, Powell told The Bee in 1988, "At some point you want to say, 'Look, I do something well.' I'm not saying it shakes the roots of humanity like the Salk vaccine, but I always wanted to say I'm one of the best in the world at something."
In History's Spotlight profiles of Sacramento newsmakers were originally published in 2007 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of The Sacramento Bee. They were written by Anthony Sorci. Look for them every Sunday in Sac History Happenings.