PARALYMPIC gold medallist Will Bayley has won a top award from the Sports Journalist Association (SJA). The 25-year-old table tennis player from Groombridge was a recipient of the Bill McGowran Trophy for excellence in disability sport.
Will’s gold came in the Class 7 – he achieved notoriety for jumping up on the table to celebrate and then hugging the judge who gave him a yellow card. He also won a silver at London 2012.
He rose to prominence at the English Institute of Sport having joined Byng Hall Table Tennis Club in Tunbridge Wells at the age of 12.
The award was introduced in 1963 and the SJA has been a pioneer in highlighting Paralympic sports for more than 50 years.
He was presented with the award by Britain’s most decorated female Olympian, the rower Katherine Grainger CBE, at a ceremony at the Pavilion in London.
Kadeena Cox, who won gold in both cycling and athletics at the Rio Games, was the female recipient of this year’s award.
Dr Grainger said: “Will made a massive impression on the nation when he was beaten in the final at the London Paralympics.
“That reputation for producing extraordinary performances was only enhanced in Rio, when his gold medal was followed by a yellow card for his over-exuberant celebration.
“He said, ‘It was the adrenalin that helped me jump. A couple of seconds later I thought ‘this is stupid but I’ve got to blag it and put my hands in the air’.”