Will Bayley found out that despite Rio’s much trumpeted party capital status, you can’t dance on tables - not that he really cared.
Sheffield-based Bayley’s reaction after winning Paralympic table tennis singles gold went viral yesterday. Wearing Pat Cash style sweatbands, he celebrated by climbing on the table and soaking in the applause, his arms outstretched like Christ the Redeemer.
When a stern faced official marched across with a yellow card, he simply flashed a cheeky smile and gave her a hug. Nothing was ruining his moment, especially not a ‘rules is rules’ referee who needs to get out more.
Bayley is one of the characters of the ParalympicsGB team and was bidding to upgrade the silver medal he won at London 2012. The 28-year-old world champion was born with arthrogryposis, a rare congenital disorder that affected all four of his limbs.
He underwent numerous operations at Great Ormond Street Hospital from the age of three months old and began playing table tennis after recovering from chemotherapy after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma at the age of seven. Brazilian opponent and journalist Israel Pereira Stroh claimed one of his main hobbies was ‘partygoing’ in his official biog. It seems Bayley prefers to be a party pooper, as he won 11-9, 5-11, 11-9, 11-4 to silence the home crowd.
"I just didn't know what to do. I spoke to my coach two years ago and he said if I win in Rio I will have to do a special celebration,” said Bayley.
“When I was on match point I hadn't planned anything so I just did that. It probably looked silly but I was so emotional. I jumped on the table so fast, I couldn't do that normally. It would take me ages, but that was quite good. I was scared it was going to break."
After clambering down he chest bumped with burly coach Gorazd Vecko and hugged equally burly comedian Johnny Vegas before the enormity of his achievement finally started to sink in: "Words don't do it justice. I was so focused, it was like a game of chess, I couldn’t get emotional until the end,” added Bayley, who will also aim to add to the London 2012 men's team bronze later this week.
"I’ve done it, I never thought it was possible for me, I’ve done the impossible. I never thought it was going to happen again when I lost in the final in London as table tennis is such an unpredictable sport and to get to a final in two Games is an unbelievable achievement. This time I thought I am not going to waste the opportunity.
"I was thinking about 2012 when I was out there. I have given everything, training six hours a day. People don't realise what I have achieved. I have done mission impossible. I got reclassified from class 6 to 7, which is a less disabled class, and I have done something incredible so I need to pat myself on the back. Great Britain were laughed at when I first joined the squad, now we're a force and it's great to show the world what we can do.”
The chance of a double table tennis celebration for ParalympicsGB unfortunately did not materialise on Monday as Barnsley's Sue Gilroy agonisingly missed out on bronze in her women's singles match. The 43-year-old was looking to finally get her hands on a Paralympic medal at the fifth attempt but it was not to be as she lost out 3-2 (12-14, 8-11, 11-8, 11-6, 11-6) to Serbia's Nada Matic.
It was however still her best ever performance having previously only managed to get out of the preliminary phase once - making the team quarter-finals at Beijing 2008.
“I’m absolutely gutted," she said.
“I followed the game plan that we had going in but she improved as the games went on and she played better on the day. Fourth is the worst position to be in particularly when you have been 2-0 up. I’m proud of what I’ve done but I’m gutted for my family and coaches who have helped me so much that I just couldn’t get that medal.”
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