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Paralympics Tokyo 2020: Will Bayley wins table tennis silver after two years of injury nightmare

Will Bayley was beaten but unbowed and cherished a Paralympic silver medal that came in the wake of injury hell and homesickness.

The 33-year-old tore his ACL while training on Strictly Come Dancing in 2019, reaching Tokyo only due to the postponement of the Games and without having taken to a major championship table in two years.

Will Bayley - won silver in Tokyo. Picture: onEdition Media / sportsbeat
Will Bayley - won silver in Tokyo. Picture: onEdition Media / sportsbeat

Tunbridge Wells' Bayley has also spent the vast majority of the last six months away from his young family with an intense training schedule at his Sheffield base.

He didn’t get the golden Paralympic pay-off he wanted and was beaten in the final by China’s Yan Shou, but reflected with some pride on silver.

“I wasn't ever guaranteed to make it back to this level, so I'm proud to make the final,” he said.

“It's been a tough few years but I believe I'm the best player in the world, so I'm a bit disappointed not to win it. I am the best on my day but I missed some crucial shots, he played well and deserved to win.

“I want to keep fighting, I want to keep showing my daughters that you don’t ever give up no matter what the odds are.

“I’ve had the odds stacked against me in the last few years, I’ve had people writing me off.

"I haven’t got to a major final since Rio. I’m a Paralympic guy, so it’s good.”

Bayley was unable to retain the title he won in Rio but will take home a third Paralympic singles medal, having also won silver at London 2012.

Bayley took the game to Yan, bronze medallist at the last Games, in the early stages and claimed the opening rubber 11-4.

But a crucial missed backhand when he was 9-8 up in the second, which would have given him game point to take a 2-0 lead, proved costly for the Brit.

Yan took control from that point on and won the third convincingly, 11-2 and then 11-8 to wrap up the victory.

Bayley admitted his exertions in a gruelling 3-2 semi-final win over China’s Keli Liao hampered him in the final, whereas Yan won his contest 3-0.

Bayley caused controversy with his celebrations of the final four victory, when he kicked down advertising hoardings and refused to shake hands with the beaten semi-finalist.

“Yesterday was a big match and it drained me mentally,” he said.

“But I’ve been through a lot worse than this so I thought I had the resilience to come through and win today. But it wasn’t meant to be and was probably fresher. He hasn’t really been challenged that badly.

“He played well today and deserved to win. You’ve got to give it to him.”

Sainsbury’s is a proud supporter of ParalympicsGB and a champion of inclusive sport for all. Sainsbury’s commitment to helping customers to eat better has been at the heart of what we do since 1869. For more information on Sainsbury’s visit www.sainsburys.co.uk/ and https://paralympics.org.uk/

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