Bayley eager for another golden moment at European Championships
As career-defining moments go, Will Bayley’s gold medal in Rio was certainly different.
There was no immediate roar of delight, no tears or a look of disbelief – it was the opposite in fact, an air of calmness as he climbed on to the table, the reality of his success far from sunk in.
But, little over a year on, his Paralympic achievement is firmly a thing of the past; he’s a focused man and his sole attention is from where his next medal will come.
Yet while some could become complacent after seeing their life goal come to fruition, Bayley is far from it, knowing all too well that his status as one of the very best in his sport is far from solid.
The only way to maintain his place at the top is by working hard – and that’s something the 29-year-old doesn’t need to be told twice.
“Sometimes I do stop and think about Rio but I just try and move on to the next goal,” said Bayley.
“I don’t want to think too much about Rio because it’s in the past and I want to be the best player now.
“It doesn’t matter if I was the best player a year ago, I want to try and be the best player now. I’ve got more things to prove.
"To see us now with some real world class players and some good young players with a lot of potential to be world class is exciting." Will Bayley
“This is what it’s like in sport. You have to keep proving yourself, it doesn’t matter if you’ve done it before, you have to do it again.
“I don’t feel any extra pressure, I just feel the same. I put myself under massive pressure for every tournament and it is no different this year to any competition I’ve played.
“In Rio I was massively under pressure because I had never won a Paralympic gold. So, if anything I do feel a bit more relaxed now but I’m massively hungry to do the business.”
That will be starting at this week’s European Championships in Slovenia, where Bayley will be chasing his first European gold since 2011 having won silver at the previous two editions.
But while his focus is set firmly on landing another title, Bayley is confident the championships will see great success across the 16-strong British squad – insisting not even his place in the squad is always a given.
“I’m playing brilliantly at the moment, I’ve had a fantastic camp in Slovenia and beat some really top players and some international able-bodied players,” he said.
“I’m feeling really good and looking forward to getting out there and giving it my best shot. The aim has to be gold. I used to play it down but now I have to try and go for the gold.
“This is probably the strongest team I have every played with over the years. To see us now with some real world class players and some good young players with a lot of potential to be world class is exciting.
“It pushes me on to try and improve as well and to try and become better. It’s probably why I’ve had the best season that I’ve had because of the young players coming through. I’ve had to improve to stay in the team.”