by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor (quotes by Paul Stimpson)
It is a most well-merited personal award for the two gold medallists. Also, it is surely a reflection of the progress that has been made by the Great Britain Paralympic Team in the past eight years under the direction of Gorazd Vecko.
At the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, there were no medals for the British Team; Will Bayley, from Tunbridge Wells in the south east of England, competed but did not progress to the main draw in the Men’s Singles Class 7 event. He finished in third place behind Germany’s Jochen Wollmert, the eventual gold medallist and Ukraine’s Mykhaylo Popov.
“I’m so delighted to be given an MBE. It is a huge honour and means so much to me. I’m proud every day to represent Great Britain and I feel privileged to have been able to represent my country in three Paralympic Games already”. Will Bayley
At the time Rob Davies was recovering the broken neck he had suffered when playing semi-professional rugby for Brecon; it was thought at one stage he would be totally paralysed from below the neck. Thankfully feeling return to his arms and table tennis, he once called a “girls game” and was not for macho playing rugby men from the Welsh valleys, gave him a new meaning in life. Now his view has changed!
Four years later in London, Great Britain secured three podium finishes but to his great disappointment, none of those places belonged to Rob Davies.
“I feel absolutely ecstatic that I’ve been named in this year’s honours list to receive an MBE. My face just lit up when I read the letter. I was just so overwhelmed and happy. I feel so privileged and proud and would just like to thank everybody who’s been part of this amazing journey I’ve been on. I can’t wait to make 2017 special!” Rob Davies
Will Bayley emerged as the silver medallist in Men’s Singles Class 7, as in Beijing suffering at the hands of Jochen Wollmert, before joining forces with Aaaron McKibbin and Ross Wilson to win bronze in Men’s Team Class 6-8. Bronze for the English trio, the one remaining medal secured in London was also bronze; Paul Davies, like Rob Davies from Wales but no relation, finished in third place in Men’s Singles Class 1.
“I’m still hungry for more medals and my long term goal is retaining my title in Tokyo 2020 where I will hopefully be at my peak. “I would like to say thanks my coach Gorazd Vecko and to all my GB team-mates and support staff; without them I would not be the player I am today. Thanks also to Gary Howes at Byng Hall, my first table tennis club and to all my sponsors and supporters over the last 10 years who have believed in me and have made it possible for me to compete at this level. I hope to continue to repay your trust and belief in the years to come”, Will Bayley
Special moments but event more special in Rio de Janeiro; once again Aaaron McKibbin and Ross Wilson alongside Will Bayley secured Men’s Team Class 6-8 bronze but most pertinently, eight years after the cupboard was bare, two gold medals belonged to Great Britain.
“I couldn’t have achieved anything without the support of my family, my mum, step-dad and my brother, the amazing team at Great Ormond Street Hospital and a dear family friend Linda Slade, who sadly passed away last year and did so much to help me”, Will Bayley
Outstanding performances rewarded and in the New Year’s Honours, they appear amongst some of the most outstanding names in sport. They are named alongside such celebrated sporting names as Jessica Ennis-Hill and Mo Farah from the world of athletics, rower Katherine Grainger and the world’s number one ranked tennis star, Andy Murray.
Will Bayley and Rob Davies are listed amongst the very best and of course that is what they are; the very best.