by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor.
Success for Will Bayley meant that he now holds the two most prestigious titles of all; two years ago in Beijing he was crowned World champion.
Furthermore, it atones for the disappointment of four years earlier in London when, in front of his home crowd, he was beaten in the final by Germany’s Jochen Wollmert.
“Today when it was one-one I thought back to London and losing to Jochen Wollmert who is a legend, a true legend”, said Will Bayley; in London, Jochen Wollmert had won the first game, before Will Bayley had responded to capture the second.
Eventually, the German seized control to succeed in four games (11-4, 4-11, 11-5, 11-4).
Vital fourth game
In Rio de Janeiro Will Bayley reversed the result to win in four games but I would suggest that it was a closer contest that in England’s capital city; at 9-all in the third games the duel was in the melting pot.
Will Bayley, with fortune on his side, won the next two points; the tide had turned in favour of Great Britain.
“Winning that third game was massive, as we walked back to the surrounds I could see by Israel’s body language that he was really disappointed”, added Will Bayley. “Winning that game made all the difference.”
Defeat for Israel Stroh but he can take immense pride in his efforts; quite rightly Will Bayley had nothing but praise for the gallant Brazilian.
“Today I played the big points well but I’ve played in Paralympic and World Championships finals”, stressed Will Bayley. “Here he was his first final in a major event; he made his first final at the Paralympic Games; it’s incredible!”
Equally, just as in earlier rounds, the forehand top spin from the left handed Brazilian caused the British player problems.
“He plays the forehand with a lot of spin, it’s difficult to play against; it is even more difficult when he changes direction and plays the ball down the line”, explained Will Bayley. “I was prepared, I’d watched videos of him; for me it was important to take the initiative, to be the first to attack.”
Success for Will Bayley, a result which marked the progress that has been made in Para Table Tennis in the past eight years; Will Bayley made his Paralympic debut in Beijing in 2008, Great Britain left empty handed, not a medal in sight.
“I joined the Great Britain Para Team ten years ago; in those day anything like today was totally impossible”, added Will Bayley. “We have a good team now, a good team spirit and here I really believe we can win more gold medals.”
One of the major reasons for the success is the influence of Gorazd Vecko.
He was appointed the Performance Director of the Great Britain Team soon after the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games. At the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games, he had guided his Slovenian compatriot, Mateja Pintar, to Women’s Singles Class3 gold.
In Rio de Janeiro, he guided Will Bayley to the top prize.
“After Will lost his first match on the first day we went back to the Athletes Village, the main job was to calm him down; he was still in the tournament”, explained Gorazd Vecko. “He was walking around with music blaring in his ears; he didn’t need that; just take things calmly.”
Gorazd Vecko proved the guiding hand.
“Today it was not the best match in the world, it was a fighting performance; he was nervous and I must admit I was very nervous but I couldn’t show him how I felt”, admitted Gorazd Vecko. “Will has practised and trained so hard; I’m unbelievably happy, delighted, fantastic.”
A first Paralympic Games gold medal for Will Bayley, for China’s Yan Shuo a first of any colour; he beat Spain’s Jordi Morales to secure third spot (11-4, 8-11, 11-7, 11-7).
The Union Jack at the top as the flags were raised with Brazil in second spot and China third; it brought a tear to the eye, it made a British heart proud.