Dancing lessons helping Bayley in the table tennis hall

Paralympic champion Will Bayley is enjoying his Strictly Come Dancing experience and feels that learning to dance is also improving his table tennis. The 31 year old, who was born with arthrogryphosis in all four limbs and overcame childhood cancer, admits that appearing on the popular BBC television programme is going to be another huge challenge but one that will help him when he attempts to retain his title in Tokyo next year.

“The first day I tried dancing was a couple of weeks ago at the first group dance session,” he said, “and I was really nervous as it is a real challenge for me. I had great support from the other contestants and that got me through that first week. Since then I have just enjoyed every session – I have loved it. I think when the pros came in to dance with us it made it much easier as they sort of carry you around the dance floor.

“It has been an amazing experience so far and it still feels surreal to say that I’m in ‘Strictly’ and part of this massive show. You don’t realise how many people work on it behind the scenes and how big the show is and it is great to be involved in it.

“I think the quicker dances will be fun to do because that will show off my personality a bit more. The ballroom dances like the waltz are a bit more serious but they will all be challenging in their own way. Obviously because of my disability the quicker dances will be more difficult but I’m just going to enjoy them all.”

Before he takes to the floor for his first dance Bayley will compete in the European Para Table Tennis Championships in Sweden later this month and feels that preparing for his dancing debut will also help his bid to regain the European title he won in 2011.

“I really think it is going to improve me a lot when I’m playing table tennis,” he said, “because already I’m becoming more aware of my balance and my movement and I’m getting stronger in my core so that is helping me a lot. When I’m playing table tennis now I’m thinking more about my balance and the way I stand and using my body to help me in my shots. It is helping me understand my body more and that can only help with table tennis.”

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