13 September 2019
Hot stepper Bayley bids for first European title in eight years
Table tennis star Will Bayley believes he is in the form of his life with just a year to go until the Paralympic Games.
The 31-year-old struck gold in his second consecutive men’s class seven final in Rio, having been forced to settle for silver in London four years earlier.
His victory over home favourite Israel Pereira Stroh meant Bayley had achieved titles on the Paralympic, World and European stages, and he admits he took his time to recover from such an enormous achievement.
After the dust settled on Rio 2016, Bayley initially struggled to replicate the form that had seen him emerge as the sport’s leading figure, with bronze at the 2017 European Championships, and a quarter-final exit at last year’s World Championships.
But 2019 has been a different story. Bayley is unbeaten this season and has claimed gold at the Japan, Slovenia and Lignano Opens.
Next on his list is this month’s European Championships in Helsingborg and Bayley – originally from Tunbridge Wells – is eager to reclaim the crown he last won in 2011.
“It’s been way too long since I won at the Europeans and I’m massively motivated,” he said. “This is my time.
“I’ve had an amazing season – I don’t think I’ve ever won three tournaments in a row and I’d love to go out there and win a major on the back of that.
“That would mean I’d be unbeaten all season so it would be the best campaign I’d have had by miles.
I’m more determined than ever to win another major tournament
“I didn’t have a good few years – I was training just as much but maybe my love slightly disappeared from the game.
“But I’ve just taken the pressure off myself now, I’m starting to enjoy the game much more again and I’m more determined than ever to win another major tournament.
“I can’t wait to perform out in Sweden. It’s a great, table tennis-loving nation, I’m massively motivated and I just want to go out there and do the business.”
Rio champion Bayley has won back his world number one spot
Based on recent results, you certainly wouldn’t put that feat beyond Bayley. Having charged back up the ITTF world rankings to regain the number one spot, Bayley is among the favourites for glory in Helsingborg, and Tokyo beyond that.
With the countdown to the Paralympics having already begun, Bayley insists he is focused on capitalising on his current form as he bids to ultimately add to his gold medal tally at the top level.
He said: “I’ve been starting to think about Tokyo throughout this season. Winning the Paralympics was a dream come true and I’d love to do it again.
“I’ve really focused on nailing the tournaments this year because the momentum is key to make sure I’m fully ready for the Games next summer.
“The next one is the European Championships and I’m going to do my best to smash it.
“After that I’m just going to try and stay on track and play tournaments to make sure I qualify for Tokyo and go there with the best chance of being successful.”
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