Table tennis player is going for gold in 2012 Paralympics
11:00 11 August 2011
Will Bayley from Tunbridge Wells prepares for the London Games with 6-hour daily training sessions
A Paralympic table tennis player from Kent has told how he is gearing up for the London Games with a gruelling training schedule.
Will Bayley, 22, was born with a rare disorder called arthrogryposis that causes joint contractures and muscle weakness, which has affected his legs and arms.
Currently ranked second in the world, he is one of the favourites for gold at next year’s Paralympics and has been training between 9am and 12noon, and 3pm and 6pm daily.
Mr Bayley, who is from Tunbridge Wells, he said: “I’ve got a really good chance of getting a medal, but anything can happen. Everyone is training really hard.
“I cannot wait for the London Games. Hopefully I’ll get as many people there from my local area, cheering me on, if everyone is there it’ll spur me on to get that extra point in the match every time they clap.”
For Paralylmpians like Mr Bayley it can be a constant battle to get sponsorship and he is hoping to secure more funding so that he can go to extra tournament abroad.
“I’ve been training really hard and I’m thinking about going to China,” he said. “I’m training full-time in Sheffield at the moment, which is the national centre for table tennis.
“China is a really good place to train. Everyone plays table tennis there.”
Table tennis or ping pong has also seen a recent surge in popularity sparked by trend-setters in London, New York and Berlin. Tables have been popping up in trendy bars and clubs everywhere. Hollywood star Susan Sarandon set up a ping pong members-only club in New York, and in Berlin, the sport has even spurned its own fashion range and designer stores.
Mr Bayley, who has been promoting the Paralympics with Channel 4 and has appeared on the T4 programme That Paralympic Show, said: “I think it’s getting popular in England. It’s actually the second biggest sport in the world, which you don’t really think about in England. But in Asia it is such a big thing.
“I like it because it’s fast and it’s fun. There are lots of different tactics. I like all racket sports, but I was best at table tennis.”
He started playing aged 12 after being diagnosed with cancer as an eight-year-old After years of chemotherapy, his grandmother bought him a table tennis table to keep him active during his recovery and it has turned into a full time vocation.
Mr Baley said his disability mainly affects his legs where he has limited movement, he said: “It makes me a bit slower but I make up for it with gym work.”
He represented Great Britain in the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, which has described as “unbelievable”, saying: “To play table tennis in a stadium with 10,000 people there was such a cool thing to do.”
Mr Baley was then ranked in the top 23 and has since won numerous gold medals at international opens. Now his sights are firmly set on London 2012.
Last week, Tunbridge Wells-based law firm Cripps Harries Hall announced that it is to sponsor him as he prepares for the Games.
But he still needs funding support. If you, your company or organisation can help email firstname.lastname@example.org.