Dancing with the Table Tennis Stars: Team England’s Will Bayley
(by Steve Hopkins)
Many in the US watch Dancing with the Stars, a dance competition series where a celebrity is paired with a professional dancer. The American show was based on a British series that first aired in 2004 that is called Strictly Come Dancing. The current rendition of Strictly Come Dancing made some headlines in our sport this year when they selected Team England Para Table Tennis Champion Will Bayley as a competitor.
Bayley is the World No. 1 Paralympic table tennis player in Class 7. He was the 2014 World Paralympics Champion and the 2016 Paralympics Games Gold Medalist. His recent Gold Medals in Class 7 singles at the Japan Open and Slovenia Open show he’ll be in contention for a medal at the 2020 Olympics as well.
In the US, table tennis players are not considered celebrities, and our para athletes are generally unknown in all sports. Its an interesting contrast in the UK, where table tennis players have achieved some level of notoriety, and where a para player could be sufficiently known to be a headliner on a television show.
Bayley’s disability is arthrogryposis, a congenital joint contracture that affects all four of his limbs. That said, unlike some celebrities that have made appearances on the show, Bayley is an athlete. He has impressed judges and fans with his dance moves and has advanced through Week 5 of the show. Twelve couples remain and if the most recent show was any indication, Will Bayley has a chance to improve his notoriety (and the sport’s notoriety) for several more weeks.
Here is video of Will Bayley playing at World Para Championships 2014
(Courtesy of ITTF)