With less than a year to go to the 2024 Summer Paralympics in Paris, we caught up with reigning world number one paralympic table tennis player and our long-time sponsorship partner, Will Bayley MBE, to find out his plans for next year and beyond.
You’re fresh off a win at the European Para Table Tennis Championships. Tell us about that.
That was one of the toughest matches of my life. I won against Jean-Paul Montenus from the Netherlands, who is ranked second in the world and he is an amazing opponent. He played one of his best matches and to win against him was a huge honour. It definitely helped being at home. I trained in Sheffield for 15 years and being back on home turf surrounded by my friends and family really spurred me on.
You’ve maintained your world number 1 title. What does that mean to you?
I’ve worked hard to get to where I am and I’m very proud to have won eight tournaments in a row. I’m 35 and I feel at the top of my game. Obviously you train hard in any sport, and a lot of that is physical skill. But table tennis is also quite unpredictable, and you need real determination, confidence and resilience. I’ve matured a lot mentally, I’m secure in myself and that has really helped my game.
Alongside your training and tournaments, do you have any other passions?
Yes, definitely. I am very passionate about my legacy. Inspiring and creating opportunities for the next generation is a passion I have always shared with Wates. Throughout my career I’ve needed a lot of strength and resilience and that’s something I want to pass on to young people, to show them they can achieve anything if they believe in themselves. I coach at Brighton Table Tennis Club where we work with refugees, those with disabilities and also with vulnerable people, making our sport inclusive for all. I want to help create future paralympic champions.
With the European Para Table Tennis Championships win under your belt, what’s next?
I never stop training and Paris is just around the corner, so I’m already preparing for that. I’m going to be up against Jean-Paul again and from his standard at Sheffield, I know it’ll be a tough match. I also play in the premier league, so I always need to be match sharp.
What does the future hold, next year and beyond?
I’m so excited for Paris next year. That’s my focus right now. This will be my 5th Paralympic games and I’m expecting it to be the best one ever. I haven’t lost a match since Tokyo 2020 and I’m going to put everything into keeping that winning streak going for as long as I can. Then hopefully it will be all eyes on LA in 2028. I am at the height of my career, and I don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. Aside from my sport, if Strictly Come Dancing called me back for a Christmas special, I’d seriously consider it. But for now, I’m 100% focused on the game.