Dan Johnson’s usual high-wattage smile has been a bit brighter these days thanks to a recent win at the Capital Area Special Olympics state indoor games in March.
He won a team gold medal and individual silver medal in bowling at the Capital Area Special Olympics.
At last count, Johnson, a Baton Rouge native who works at the Zachary Winn-Dixie, has 50 medals — all of them in bowling, bocce or horseshoes at Special Olympics.
Prior to the event in March, he and his three teammates practiced every Tuesday for weeks, two hours at a time, at All Star Lanes in Baton Rouge.
“I love it. I love to bowl,” Johnson said. “To earn gold, you have to bowl a near-perfect game, so I practice a lot.”
Bowling since he was a teen, Johnson first got into the recreational sport through a coach who persuaded him to try it. He first competed in 2001 and has been racking up the medals ever since.
“I get really excited every time I win a medal, and my family does, too. They’re really proud of me,” said Johnson, who has an older brother and parents who live in Baton Rouge.
For many athletes, the pinnacle of success is winning Olympic gold, but for Johnson, it’s not enough.
He’s aiming to win gold, silver and bronze medals in bocce, which he’ll compete for in May, and in horseshoes, which he’ll try for next year.
In four years, according to his coach, he’ll compete in bowling at the Special Olympics USA National Games in New Jersey, something he’s really looking forward to.
Zachary Winn-Dixie Assistant Store Director Albert Simmons has known Johnson for years. The two have attended church and have been co-workers for many years. Their brotherly bond is evident to anyone around them.
“We sort of pick on each other in a brotherly way,” Simmons said. “Dan is a good man, a quality person. Everyone in Zachary knows that. He’s a real good associate and always a pleasure to work with.”
Johnson said he likes being employed at Winn-Dixie, where he has worked for 16 years, and his favorite thing about working there are the customers.
“Many of them know about my medals, but some of them don’t,” Johnson said. “People are just really happy for me; they’re proud of me.”
Johnson, whose birthday is April 16, says he has no plans to quit competing any time soon. “Not as long as I’m winning medals.”