William John Bayley made his debut into the world on 17th January 1988 at 2.30 a.m., weighing 6lb, wide eyed and with a full head of black hair. His parents were aware before birth that he would be born with arthrogryposis, a rare congenital disorder that was to affect all four of his limbs. Will’s feet were splinted from birth and at three months old he underwent his first operation, which was to see him in plaster for several months. Many more reconstruction operations were to follow at Great Ormond Street Hospital, under the brilliant direction of John Fixon, a leading surgeon at GOSH.
At the age of three, with the aid of magic Pedro boots, Will was able to walk. During these early years Will was always full of happiness, courage and determination … he just got on with it.
The family moved to Groombridge in 1993 and both Will and his brother joined St Thomas’ School. At the age of seven Will was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and began a six-month course of chemotherapy at the now very familiar Great Ormond Street Hospital.
Whilst recovering from cancer, Will discovered he was able to play a good game of table tennis. Thanks to his beautiful and kind Grandma, who bought him his first table tennis table, Will continued to persevere with the game. At the age of 12 he joined Byng Hall Table Tennis Club in Tunbridge Wells where he continued to improve and enter competitions each week and which culminated in him representing Kent men’s team of able-bodied players, where his table tennis went from strength to strength.
At the age of sixteen Will left full-time education at Beacon Community College, Crowborough to join The Brit School for Performing Arts in Croydon to embark upon a Theatre Studies course. As ever Will threw himself passionately into his acting and was given a part in ‘We’ve Got The Toaster’, later released on DVD!
Will continued to train during the week and take part in table tennis competitions at the weekend and it was during this time that he met Joe Stotesbury who played for the Paralympic team. It was not long before Will and Joe moved to Filton College in Bristol to continue their studies. Will’s great friend and table tennis coach Kevin Satchell, Head of the Bristol Table Tennis Academy, is quickly cited by Will as the reason for much of his success. Kevin, himself a former International player and previously coach to both Scotland and England’s International table tennis teams, has been tireless in his support of Will. Kevin was quoted as saying, “Will Bayley is one of the most focussed and dedicated players I have ever worked with. I have no doubt he will achieve his goal of a gold medal in London 2012”.
Some people come into this world to achieve great things and whilst it has not been an easy ride, perhaps for that very reason Bayley will never give up and never stop in his quest to reach the top and he continues to enjoy every moment of the journey.
Will joined the Paralympic team some four years ago when he was selected to play for Great Britain in the 2008 Beijing Paralympics. It took the World No. 1 Jochen Wollmert to remove Will from medal contention but since then Will has taken on the best in the world.
Bayley is now training full time with the Paralympic team at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield, where he lives with Performance Manager Gorazd Vecko, and other GB team players. Gorazd together with Greg Baker, Head Coach and Matt Kenny, Assistant Coach have coached and supported Will over the past two years and will continue to do so in the run up to London 2012.
In October 2011 Will returned from The European Championships in Split, Croatia where he achieved a Gold medal in the singles, Silver in the team event and was voted European Players Player of the Year 2011. The results at this event have been the crowning moment in his career to date.
What makes a great athlete? What keeps them going on a bad day, constantly trying to improve on the last result, always being judged by professionals, sporting colleagues and team mates. For some people, as a direct result of a challenging life perhaps, the journey has to continue with positives, thankfulness for being here and the feeling of being truly alive. For this reason alone perhaps they feel the need to rise to the challenge of giving their very best and a little bit more. No one should ever doubt the passion and desire in Will Bayley to be at the very top of his sport!
The Paralympics (parallel games) was Will’s opportunity to prove his ability as an individual athlete and as part of a team. He was very proud to be a part of Great Britain’s Paralympic Team representing Great Britain at London 2012.
In the Class 7 Singles event Will took a Silver medal after being beaten by Jochen Wollmert in an emotional five game final. His achievement in winning Silver marked Great Britain’s first men’s singles table tennis medal since Atlanta in 1996!
In the Class 6-8 team event together with Ross Wilson and Aaron McKibbin Will took a bronze medal when he avenged his loss to Wollmert with a decisive victory beating him 11-9, 11-2, 11-8, concluding his match within 20 minutes!
The GB team’s medal tally at London 2012 was four medals, three Bronze and one Silver, the most ever at a Paralympics and Will can be credited for half of those medals!
Will is a fighter, he has shown that throughout his life and there is no question that he will fight back…roll on Rio… there is one medal missing from the set and you can be sure that Will is going to do everything within his power to try and secure it next time around!
Sainsbury's and Channel 4 Present... Will Bayley 2012 - http://www.channel4.com
Will Bayley 2012 - http://www.radiotimes.com
London 2012 Paralympics: table tennis - http://www.telegraph.co.uk
Time Out meets the young table tennis player on a quest for his first major medal - http://www.timeout.com
Will Bayley’s wonderful Championships - http://www.etta.co.uk
International records - http://www.ipttc.org
Welcoming the Bright Lights of London - http://www.sportsvibe.co.uk