Will Bayley MBE

Will Bayley created one of the most memorable moments of Rio 2016 for ParalympicsGB when he won gold in the men's class 7 event,  beating home favourite Israel Pereira Stroh in four sets.

It was an emotional moment for Will, who seized the opportunity to improve on the silver medal he won in the same event at London 2012. 

28 year-old Bayley had lost to Stroh earlier in the competition but reversed the scoreline in the final and celebrated by leaping onto the table - and then hugging the official who gave him a yellow card for doing so.

In the men's class 6-8 team event, the trio of Will Bayley, Ross Wilson and Aaron McKibbin – the same team that competed at London 2012 – secured a 2-1 victory in a nail-biting clash against China to triumph in the bronze medal match and score another podium place.

Born with arthrogryposis, a rare congenital disorder that affected all four of his limbs, Will underwent numerous operations at Great Ormond Street Hospital from the age of three months old. He returned to Great Ormond Street for chemotherapy when he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma at the age of seven and it was while recovering from cancer that his grandmother bought him a table tennis table and his journey in the sport began.

Having joined Byng Hall Table Tennis Club in Tunbridge Wells he went on to represent Kent men’s non-disabled team and after moving to Bristol to continue his studies Will trained at the Bristol Table Tennis Academy with former international player Kevin Satchell. He joined the GB Para table tennis team in 2006 and after representing ParalympicsGB in Beijing in 2008 he returned to China on his own for several months to train with the best in the world.

In October 2011 Will won gold in the European Championships in Croatia and was voted Players Player of the Year. In 2012 he became World number one and reached the Paralympic final in men’s class 7, losing an emotional match to his nemesis Jochen Wollmert from Germany, who had ended Will’s challenge in Beijing. True to form Will came back stronger and regained the world number one ranking in April 2013.

In 2013 Will was involved in a battle for the world number one ranking with Maxym Nikolenko from the Ukraine and he beat his great rival in the semi-finals of the European Championships in Italy, only to lose 3-1 to another Ukrainian Mykhaylo Popov in the final. Although disappointed to lose his European crown Will was determined to use the experience to improve his game.

World ranked number two at the start of the 2014 season, Will avenged his European Championship final defeat by Popov on the way to winning gold in the Lignano Master Open in Italy and won gold in Slovenia as well in his build up to the World Championships in China in September. After beating Paralympic champion Jochem Wollmert in the group stages of the tournament he defeated Popov again in the semi-finals and then beat world number one Nikolenko in the final to become World champion.

In December 2014 Will received recognition for his achievement in becoming world champion when he won the Disability Sport award at the inaugural Daily Mirror and Sport England Pride of Sport Awards.

A foot injury delayed his start to the 2015 season but he reached the final in Slovenia, losing in five sets to Nikolenko, and then with new team partner Billy Shilton beat World champions Spain to take gold in the team event. In June he regained the World number one ranking and in October he reached his fifth consecutive major singles final at the European Championships in Denmark, taking silver after losing 3-1 to an inspired Jean-paul Montanus from the Netherlands.

Will's achievements in his sport was recognised in the 2017 New Year's Honours, when he was awarded a MBE.

Major results

2016 Paralympic Games, Rio
Men’s singles (class 7)
Gold
2016 Paralympic Games, Rio
Men’s teams (class 6-8)
Bronze
2012 Paralympic Games, London
Men’s singles (class 7)
Silver
2012 Paralympic Games, London
Men’s teams (class 6-8)
Bronze
2015 European Championships, Vejle, Denmark
Men’s singles (class 7)
Silver
2015 European Championships, Vejle, Denmark
Men’s teams (class 7)
Silver
2014 World Championships, Beijing, China
Men’s singles (class 7)
Gold
2014 World Championships, Beijing, China
Men’s teams (class 6-7)
Bronze

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