This half-term our school is focussing on Disability Awareness. For those of us who are fans of the popular BBC show Strictly Come Dancing, we have seen Will Bayley open up about the struggles he has faced in his life. While I am really sad to see Will withdraw from the competition due to injury, I’d like to take this opportunity to share his inspirational story with everyone.
Will is a paralympic table tennis player, winning Silver in London in 2012 and Gold in Rio in 2016. In 2017 he was honoured with an MBE for services to table tennis.
He was born in 1988 with a condition called arthrogryposis, which affected his hands and feet.
When he was 7, he was diagnosed with cancer. It was during his recovery from this illness that he started to play table tennis. His grandmother bought him his first table tennis table.
When Will was 12 he joined a table tennis club in his home town, Tunbridge Wells in Kent. He went on to represent Kent in the men’s able bodied team, showing that he wasn’t going to let his disability stop him from succeeding.
At the age of 17, Will moved to Sheffield and trained full time at the English Institute of Sport. Since then he has represented Great Britain in three Paralympic Games (2008, 2012 and 2016). In 2011 he was voted the European Player’s Player of the Year. The following year he achieved world number one ranking.
2019 saw Will join Strictly, partnered with professional dancer, Janette Manrara. After 4 weeks of scoring in the mid 20’s, their Contemporary Dance to the song “7 Years” earned them a score of 32, amid tears from the judges and audience. This dance, which he completed bare-foot showed his disability, because of his courage and determination won him the respect of the nation.
His story shows us that his disability hasn’t hidden his ability. He reminds us that if we work hard and face our challenges we can achieve!