by Ian Marshall, Editor
He now has sights firmly focused on retaining his men’s singles class 7 title at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
It has been a heart wrenching decision for the 31 year old who has captured the hearts of the nation with his performances partnering professional dancer Janette Manrara.
“Strictly has been an amazing experience. I’ve loved every minute of it but Tokyo 2020 is my priority and I don’t want to risk further injury by continuing on the show. I wanted to take on a new challenge but I also wanted to try and inspire people with disabilities to feel that anything is possible.
The support I have had from the public has been overwhelming and I would never have expected so much. I have had some really nice messages from parents with children who have got the same disability as me and it has given them hope; that is a nice feeling. To hear that watching me dance has helped to change some people’s lives is brilliant.
Learning to dance is really going to help me when I am playing table tennis. It has improved my balance and strengthened my core so I think that will really help my movement around the table. It has also shown me that I can do things I never thought were possible; I can’t wait to get back in the training hall and it is all about Tokyo 2020 now.” Will Bayley
The fact Will Bayley has appeared on the show and week after week has progressed to the next round when other celebrated names have fallen by the wayside has been a major boost for Paralympic sport in general as well as for table tennis. It is a fact of which Gorazd Vecko, British Para Table Tennis Performance Director Gorazd Vecko is well aware.
“We are really proud of what Will has achieved on Strictly Come Dancing. He has shown all the determination and fighting spirit that have made him a champion. It is disappointing for Will that he has had to leave the show due to injury but I know he will come back stronger and work as hard as he can to retain his title in Tokyo.” Gorazd Vecko
Will Bayley and Janette Manrara reached the fifth round of the competition.
BBC Television (Wednesday 30th October): Will Bayley leaves Strictly due to an injury
Editor’s note: my thanks to Francesca Bullock, British Para Table Tennis Team press officer, for her assistance in producing this article.