Twenty-year-old Bayley, who will make his Games debut in Beijing will join Paralympians Arnie Chan, James Rawson, Neil Robinson, Sue Gilroy, Scott Robertson, Cathy Mitton and Dzaier Neil as well as debutantes Clare Robertson, Paul Karabardak and David Wetherill as part of the British contingent at the Games in September.
Qualification for the table tennis competitions at the 2008 Paralympics was based on positions in the world ranking list after it closed on December 31, 2007. British performances at qualification events throughout 2006 and 2007 saw the GB players rise through the world rankings to qualify and subsequently be selected for the Games. Team golds for Bayley, along with David Wetherill, at both the Slovenian Open and the Polish Open, saw him rise through the class 6 rankings. He was however reclassified to class 7 at the European Championships in November 2007 but despite this set-back continued to impress and eventually finished 19th in the world rankings for his new classification.
The youngster, who is originally from Tunbridge Wells in Kent but now lives in Bradley Stoke, Bristol to train at the Bristol Table Tennis Academy at Filton College is also a keen actor and used to attend the Brit School in Croydon. “It hasn’t really sunk in yet. It’s been two years of hard work and concentrating on qualification so it’s great that I have been selected,” he said.
“I was reclassified in November last year and thought that would be my chances of going to Beijing over but then I decided to just concentrate on qualification until I knew for certain.
“In Beijing I want to win a medal in the singles. It’s quite an open class – there’s about six or seven athletes who could win.”
Kent table tennis player Will Bayley, has today been named by ParalympicsGB as part of the table tennis squad set to represent Britain at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing.
Table tennis Team Manager Steve Ward said: “To be the first team selected by ParalympicsGB is a great honour for table tennis and the athletes who have achieved the tough qualification standards.
“We will have a larger squad than in Athens in 2004 with a number having never competed at the Paralympics before but who have great chances to compete for medals and gain valuable experience for future Games in London in 2012 and beyond.
“We are planning to defend the two medals won in Athens – men’s class 3 team silver and women’s class 2 singles bronze – as well as take others. Beijing will however be much tougher than Athens and all players will need to perform at the highest level to challenge the Chinese in their backyard. The sport over there is like football here and we are being told the tickets are selling out already.
“The venue is outstanding and the biggest stage in world for table tennis, we need to pull out our biggest performances to maximise medal chances.”
The Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games opens on September 6 and closes on September 17. The table tennis events at the Games take place from September 7 to 16 at the Peking University Gymnasium.
At the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games Britain finished second in the medal table with a total of 35 golds, 30 silver and 29 bronze medals. With competitive standards continually rising and the dominant Chinese team taking the home advantage, ParalympicsGB recognises that the 2008 Paralympics will be one of its biggest challenges yet.
Picture by Alex Broadway/SWpix.com