Can this paralympian go from paddles to glitter ball?
Will Bayley is a 31-year-old suffers from a condition called arthrogryposis (pronounced AR-THROW-GRY-PO-SIS) which is a congenital joint contracture. His feet were splinted from birth and at three months old he underwent the first of many reconstruction operations, which saw him in plaster for several months. He finally started to walk age 3.
Will’s Grandmother bought him a table tennis table following a cancer diagnosis (he was unable to play any contact sport due to his ‘Hickman line’, ) and this eventually led to him joining a table tennis club in his hometown of Tunbridge Wells aged 11 and later joining a Table Tennis Academy.
The impact of Arthrogryposis on all four of Will’s limbs meant that he was originally assessed as Class 6, where Classes 6-10 are for non-wheelchair athletes. As a class 6 player Will had reached No 5 in the world rankings, and consequently Will joined the British Paralympic team that would be heading to Beijing for the Paralympics in 2008
However, just before the Games started he was re-classified to Class 7 for more able bodied athletes. His ranking immediately dropped from No 5 in the world to No 43. As a result Will’s dream of winning a Paralympic gold medal evaporated.
But China’s love of table tennis had an impact on Will – “What an experience, 10,000 people watching every single match . The loudest most passionate crowd I’ve ever played against.” In fact Will was to return to China, alone, after the excitement of the Paralympics had faded to develop his skills and game play.
Often, reclassification of Paralympic athletes can have a significant impact on the athlete’s ability to compete and it’s a tribute to Will’s determination that he decided he would simply become Paralympic champion in his new class. Bayley won a gold medal in the singles at the 2011 European Championships in Split, Croatia and took silver in the London 2012 Paralympics.
He says “London will always be remembered as the best Paralympics I’ve ever taken part in”.
After London 2012, Will continued to focus on improving his game so he could not only compete in Rio 2016 but also win, beating home-favourite Brazilian Israel Pereira Stroh. He received a yellow card for jumping up onto the table in celebration!
He is clearly a pro with paddles, will he have the same luck as he takes on the strictly judges? His moving contemporary dance performance would suggest he is definetly in with a chance