Kim Daybell was today recognised for his contribution in the fight against COVID-19 when he was named as one of three winners of the prestigious National Lottery Spirit of Sport award at the 71st SJA British Sports Awards 2020, which this year took the form of a virtual award ceremony.
The 28-year-old two-time Paralympian from Sheffield has combined his table tennis with part-time work at the Whittington Hospital in North London since he qualified as a doctor in 2018 and was due to start training full time in March this year to prepare for the Tokyo Paralympic Games. Instead, he returned to work full time at the hospital as a Senior House Doctor, putting his Paralympic ambitions on hold to look after COVID patients.
“This has obviously been a very difficult year,” said Daybell; “everyone has been struggling and there hasn’t been a huge amount to celebrate so it is really nice to have the work that we have done recognised. Not that we need recognition but just to have it recognised by people outside of the medical community as well and to have sport rallying round frontline workers is a really nice thing and I’m very proud to have won the award.”
Daybell could never have imagined the situation he found himself in this year while he was training to become a doctor and can look back on the last nine months with a great deal of pride.
“I think I have learnt a lot as a doctor, as an athlete and as a person,” he said. “It has been a very up and down year and very difficult in lots of ways, but I’ve learnt how resilient I can be. Finding out that we were going to be in lockdown and starting work on the COVID wards was a big moment for me and for a lot of doctors and nurses. It was scary and tough but I was just pleased with the way we managed to deal with it and I’m personally proud of the way that I came through that. Coming back to training in October was another big moment for me this year – I hadn’t been in the training centre at the EIS in Sheffield since March and coming back and seeing all the guys and all the faces I had grown to rely on over the years made me realise how much I missed that support.
“Not being able to play (table tennis) has been really hard and just being a part of our squad and competing in the Paralympic Games and having that taken away this year has made me appreciate how much it does mean to me and to everyone really. I was surprised how saddened people were by the cancellation of the Olympic and Paralympic Games – with everything else going on in the world they were thinking about that, which was really good. People not being able to go out and do their sport and daily exercise has been hard and hit home how important sport is and how much it means to everyone.”
After a year in which he has sacrificed so much Daybell is hoping to spend Christmas with his family in Yorkshire and is cautiously optimistic about next year when he will hopefully get the chance to compete in his third Paralympic Games.
“It will be nice to spend some quality time with my family at Christmas,” he said. “As far as 2021 is concerned I’m feeling more optimistic, particularly with the vaccine coming through, but I don’t think the whole COVID thing is over yet. There is still a battle to fight but we are getting there and I’m feeling positive about the future.”