Will Bayley, the face of Great British para-table tennis, finished the 2015 ranked No. 1 in the men’s single class 7 and looks to maintain that hold heading into the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in September.
Bayley moved into No. 1 after beating Ukraine’s Maksym Nikolenko in 2015, who held the top spot for two years. Bayley’s first-place rank at the end of the 2015 season may have secured his ticket to Rio, but there is still a long journey ahead to Paralympic gold.
Bayley is not new to the Paralympic Games. He competed at his first in Beijing 2008, only two years after his first senior international competition. Taking the 2011 European Championships singles gold and ranked No. 2 in the world, Bayley qualified for his second Paralympics and took singles silver in front of a home crowd at London 2012.
“In Beijing I didn’t know what to expect,” the 28-year-old said. “I was quite young and inexperienced at the international level and I was taken aback by the magnitude of it. I knew what to expect in London and I knew it was going to be a massive event and it was, but I was ready for it.
“Rio will be different again as it is my third Games and I’ve got a lot of experience and I feel really ready. I know what it takes to do well and to succeed in a high pressure environment, so I’m looking forward to it.”
The class 7 competition in Rio 2016 will be one of the toughest, as the the top competitors are close in ability level. At the 2015 International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Para Table Tennis European Championships in Denmark, Bayley lost to Dutchman Jean-Paul Montanus in the finals; it was Montanus’ first major title since picking up the sport in 2010.
“Anyone is dangerous,” Bayley said. “Looking at the players who have qualified they all have a chance to get a medal. The top six in the world are very strong and I can’t pick anyone out in particular [as my biggest competitor]. I have respect for everyone and I know that there won’t be an easy match in Rio.”
The 2014 World Champion is training twice a day on the table and in the gym, leaving no room for error when September comes.
“My goal for Rio is just to be as well prepared as I can be and get the full potential out of myself – that is my main goal,” Bayley said.
Great Britain finished third overall in the Paralympic medal standings in London 2012, with four of the medals from para-table tennis. The British can build off that at Rio 2016 and show their strength in para-table tennis.
“It means everything to me [to compete at my third Paralympics],” Bayley said. “I’m always proud to wear a GB shirt and I can’t wait - it is a privilege for me to compete at a Paralympic Games.”
Sport fans from around the world can now buy their Paralympic tickets for Rio 2016 from authorised ticket resellers (ATRs).
The IPC’s Global ATR is Jet Set Sports, and Rio 2016 tickets and packages can be purchased on the CoSport website.
Residents of Brazil can buy 2016 Paralympics tickets directly from the Rio 2016 website.