Sue Bailey MBE

Date and place of birth: 19/10/72, Barnsley
Home town: Barnsley
Lives: Dodworth, Barnsley
Family: children Lauren and Ryan
TT Class: 4
Current world ranking: 12
TT Style: Attacking
International debut: 1996
Major titles: Commonwealth champion 2002/2006; European champion 2005

In brief:

Sue is a former Commonwealth and European champion as well as a two-time World medallist. In Rio 2016 she came heartbreakingly close to winning her first Paralympic medal, losing a very close match for the bronze medal 3-2 to the Serbian Nada Matic having led 2-0. She secured qualification for her sixth Paralympic Games by winning the women’s class 4 singles at the World Qualification Tournament in Slovenia in June 2021 and achieved her dream of a Paralympic medal in Tokyo, taking bronze in the women’s class 4-5 team event with Megan Shackleton.

Sue’s story

Sue initially started playing table-tennis when she was 12 years old after watching her parents who competed in the local Barnsley and Sheffield leagues. Having also played cricket and netball, at the age of 18 she became wheelchair-bound and started playing table tennis in a wheelchair two years later.

“My dad and mum were my inspiration,” explains Sue. “I used to go and watch them in the league and things just went from there.  I then found a wonderful coach called Mick Travis and I joined the GB squad in 1996.”

Sue competed in her first European Championships in 1998 and was European champion in 2005, having won silver in 2003 when seven and a half months pregnant. She took gold in the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002 and again in Melbourne in 2006.

“Manchester was fantastic,” she recalls, “but it was also very difficult for me because my dad had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and he’d been in hospital for seven months. His only two aims were to get out of hospital to watch the final in Manchester if I got there and to see my little boy. Goodness knows how he did it but we managed to get him out of hospital in the ambulance with all the oxygen tanks to watch my final.”

Having made her Paralympic debut in Sydney, Sue went on to represent ParalympicsGB in Athens, Beijing and London but despite success at World and European level a Paralympic medal eluded her.

In 2013, Sue won medals in Slovenia and Slovakia before taking gold in the Bayreuth Open in Germany. She then represented GB in the European Championships, losing a very close match to the London 2012 silver medalist and double European champion Borislava Peric-Rankova from Serbia in the semi-final to take the bronze.

In 2014 Sue once again faced the world number one Peric-Rankovic in the semi-finals of the World Championships and at 0-2 down she looked to be heading for another defeat but she fought back magnificently to take a famous victory 11-8 in the fifth. Perhaps unsurprisingly Sue could not produce a repeat performance in the final against Miao Zhang and the Chinese world number two was a comfortable 3-0 winner.

Sue started the 2015 season with bronze medals in Italy, recording another win over Peric-Rankovic in the team event, and Slovenia and represented GB once more in the European Championships in Denmark. With classes 4 and 5 combined she reached the quarter finals of the singles but found the class 5 three-time former European champion Ingela Lundback just too strong in a 3-1 defeat. She did add to her major medal tally with team bronze in the women’s class 4-5 event with 16-year-old Megan Shackleton, the pair reaching the semi-finals before losing to Sweden.

In 2016 Sue competed for GB in her fifth Paralympic Games in Rio. After reaching the knockout stages for the first time she came agonisingly close to winning her first Paralympic medal, losing a very close match for the bronze medal 3-2 to the Serbian Nada Matic having led 2-0.

In 2017 Sue won bronze in the World Team Championships with Megan Shackleton and then overcame a preparation disrupted by an operation on her arm to take bronze in the women’s class 4-5 singles at the European Championships in Slovenia. In 2018 she defeated Paralympic champion Peric-Rankovic on her way to taking silver in the Slovenia Open in May but was unable to repeat that victory in the World Championships in October, losing to the Serbian in the quarter-finals.

In 2019 Sue went out of the singles at the European Championships at the group stage but came back to win a team bronze with Megan Shackleton. Having missed out on automatic qualification for her sixth Paralympic Games she secured her place on the team by winning the women’s class 4 singles at the World Qualification Tournament and finally achieved her dream of a Paralympic medal in Tokyo, winning the deciding singles to secure the bronze medal in the women’s class 4-5 team event with Megan Shackleton.

“It’s been such a long time coming,” she said, “so I’m thrilled to bits we’ve finally got that medal and at Megan’s first Paralympic Games. I’m just so proud of us as a team. What a fantastic partner I’ve got and I can’t wait for the future for us both.”

Several years ago Sue received an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List and an Honorary Doctorate for her services to table tennis and her charity work with Rainbow House, disabled children’s charity, and Cancer Research. She has also worked as an Ambassador for Sport England for many years, running various table-tennis workshops and talks.

Sue combines her table tennis career with her work as a full-time Primary School Teacher at Shawlands Primary School in Barnsley. Music has also played a big part in Sue’s life and she admits that she will always be a ‘rock chick’ at heart.

“I was a rock drummer at 15 – I played with a heavy metal band called Touch Wood and I used to tour round Yugoslavia, as it was back then, and Austria as lead flautist in an orchestra. Although I don’t play in bands anymore I’ve taught flute, clarinet and recorder from the age of 15 and that is something I’ve been able to carry on doing while I’ve been at primary school.”

Take 5 with Sue:

Most admired sportsman/woman - Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson

Three people you would most like to have a drink with - Steven Seagal, Robbie Williams, Gary Barlow

If you had to appear in a reality TV show which one would it be - I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here

Three words that describe you best - dedicated, determined, fun-loving

Place in the world you would most like to visit - tour around Australia and swim/dive in the Great Barrier Reef

and finally - Sue was awarded BBC Disabled Sports Personality of the Year for Yorkshire and Lincolnshire in 2002 and 2006

2021 Results:

Paralympic Games, Tokyo – bronze, women’s teams (class 4-5); group stages, women’s singles (class 4)

World Qualification Tournament, Slovenia – gold, women’s singles (class 4)

2020 Results:

Costa Brava Spanish Open – group stages, women’s singles (class 4-5); bronze, women’s teams (class 2-5)

Polish Open – bronze, women’s singles (class 4-5); bronze, women’s teams (class 2-5)

2019 Results:

Dutch Open – QF, women’s singles (class 4); bronze, women’s teams (class 3-5)

European Championships, Sweden – bronze, women’s teams (class 4-5); group stages, women’s singles (class 4-5)

Slovenia Open – L16, women’s singles (class 4); bronze, women’s teams (class 4)

2018 Results:

World Championships, Slovenia – QF, women’s singles (class 4)

Slovenian Open – silver, women’s singles (class 4-5); QF, women’s teams (class 4-5)

Slovakia Open – bronze, women’s singles (class 4-5); silver, women’s teams (class 4-5)

2017 Results:

Belgian Open – silver, women’s singles (class 4-5); silver, women’s teams (class 1-5)

European Championships, Lasko, Slovenia – bronze, women’s singles (class 4-5); 5th, women’s teams (class 4-5RR)

World Team Championships, Slovakia – bronze, women’s class 4-5

Slovenia Open – bronze, women’s teams (class 4-5); QF, women’s singles (class 4-5)

Lignano Master Open, Italy – bronze, women’s singles (class 4-5)

2016 Results:

Paralympic Games, Rio de Janeiro - SF, women’s singles (class 4)

Slovakia Open - bronze, women’s singles (class 4); silver, women’s teams (class 4)

Lignano Master Open, Italy - bronze, women’s singles (class 4-5); bronze, women’s teams (class 4-5)

2015 Results:

China Open - silver, women’s teams (class 4-5); 4th women’s RR singles (class 4)

European Championships, Vejle, Denmark - bronze, women’s teams (class 4-5); QF, women’s singles (class 4-5)

Bayreuth Open, Germany - bronze, women’s singles (class 4); bronze, women’s teams (class 4)

Lignano Master Open, Italy - bronze, women’s singles (class 4-5); 4th women’s teams (class 4-5)

2014 Results:

World Championships, Beijing, China - silver, women’s singles (class 4)

Spanish Open - gold, women’s singles (class 4)

Lignano Master Open, Italy - bronze, women’s singles (class 4-5); silver, women’s teams (class 4-5)

Career Highlights:

2021:    Paralympic Games, Tokyo – bronze, women’s teams (class 4-5)

World Qualification Tournament, Slovenia – gold, women’s singles (class 4)

2019:    European Championships, Sweden – bronze, women’s teams (class 4-5)

2017:    European Championships, Lasko, Slovenia – bronze, women’s singles (class 4-5)

World Team Championships, Slovakia – bronze, women’s class 4-5

2016:    Paralympic Games, Rio de Janeiro - SF, women’s singles (class 4)

2015:    European Championships, Vejle, Denmark - bronze, women’s teams (class 4-5)

2014:    World Championships, Beijing, China - silver, women’s singles (class 4)

2013:    European Championships, Lignano, Italy - bronze, women’s singles (class 4)

2009:    European Championships, Genoa, Italy - silver, women’s singles (class 4)

2006:    World Championships, Montreux, Switzerland - bronze, women’s singles (class 4)

2006:    Commonwealth Games, Melbourne, Australia - gold, women’s singles (class 1-5)

2005:    European Championships, Italy - gold, women’s singles (class 4); bronze, women’s teams (class 4)

2003:    European Championships, Zagreb, Croatia - silver, women’s singles (class 4)

2002:    Commonwealth Games, Manchester, UK - gold, women’s singles (class 2-5)

2001:    European Championships, Frankfurt, Germany - bronze, women’s teams (class 4)