Former Paralympic and World champion Will Bayley paid an emotional tribute to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II after winning gold in the men’s class 7 singles at the Finland Para Open today.
“For me she was like everyone’s grandma,” said Bayley, “someone who was constantly there. We heard that she was unwell when we landed in Finland and then heard the news that she had passed away the night before the tournament started. When I put the news on I burst into tears and I don’t know how you can have that feeling about someone who you have never really spoken to or known that well so it just shows what an amazing person she was and how important she was to the country.
“I’ve got so much respect for the Royal Family and what they have done – they’ve always been so supportive of the Paralympics as well. I’ve been to the Palace and The Queen always greeted us with a smile on her face and was very generous with her time to the Paralympians. I don’t take that for granted because it is not a given that it happens. She had an amazing life and last night I was looking to celebrate her life and everything she has done but it is a massive loss to the country and everyone is feeling sad about it. All our thoughts and sympathy are with the Royal Family at this time.”
Four-time European champion Rob Davies, who also won Paralympic gold in Rio 2016, said after winning the men’s class 1 singles in Finland:
“I met The Queen with the squad after London and she had a little chat with us and she was just a lovely lady – we had a bit of a giggle with her and it was a lovely moment that I will always remember. She reminded me of my great-grandma if I’m honest and I think that is what made her so special. She and Prince Philip were so strong together for the whole country and did so much for us all.”