Sheffield table tennis star targets gold in Rio

Will Bayley: won silver at the London Paralympics
Will Bayley: won silver at the London Paralympics
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Will Bayley has a word of warning for his rivals heading into this year’s Paralympic Games – he is an even better player than the one who claimed para table tennis silver at London 2012.

Bayley, who trains at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield, is currently on track to make his third Paralympic Games appearance at Rio 2016 in September.

Final selections for the GB team will not take place until later in the year but Bayley, who was born with arthrogryposis, is high on the list having regained the world number one ranking in men’s class 7 last June.

He followed that up with both singles and team silver at the European Championships in Denmark in October.

And, with a world singles title also in the bag since London 2012, the 27-year-old believes he is on track to try and upgrade on his Paralympic silver.

“My game is a lot better than it was four years ago,” said Bayley, who also appeared at Beijing 2008.

“I just think I’ve improved my all round game in general and I’ve been working really hard at all the tournaments I’ve been entering.

“This would be my third Paralympic Games, but I feel like I’ve been improving with each cycle.

“There will be pressure considering I’m world No 1 but I like to think I thrive off that pressure.

“I’ve got lots of tournaments between now and Rio, including the Italian Open, Slovakia Open and Slovenia Open to work on my seeding.

“The team still needs to be ratified for Rio, so I will just be working hard between now and then.”

Bayley was speaking as he helped to launch Supercharge ParalympicsGB – a new campaign which allows the public to show their support for Britain’s Paralympians over the course of 2016 and beyond through fundraising, donating funds and taking part in dedicated ‘Supercharge’ fan activity.

It is the first time the British Paralympic Association, a registered charity, has launched such a major public facing campaign to generate support and raise funds for ParalympicsGB and Bayley believes it will prove invaluable in the run up to Rio 2016.

“It’s fantastic, it helps to get Paralympic sport back into the public eye,” he added.

“London 2012 was such an amazing experience and the support of the public really helped to drive the athletes on.

“Knowing that we have so many people behind us really gives you that extra motivation. It’s going to be great to have a Paralympic Games in South America, it’s going to be like a carnival atmosphere.

“And after the success of London, we will be looking to continue to do our country proud.”

You can help #Supercharge ParalympicsGB to Rio 2016 and beyond. Show your support for the team and find out more at www.paralympics.org.uk/supercharge