Will Bayley credited The National Lottery for helping him learn his trade across the globe before he planted the Union Flag on top of the world.
Para table tennis star Bayley, 35, won gold at Rio 2016 in the individual class 7 event and has also claimed silver on three occasions across London 2012 and Tokyo 2020.
While National Lottery funding continues to propel Bayley towards a fifth Paralympic Games, he insists the support he received after his first appearance provided the foundation for his future success.
“The National Lottery funding has been massive for me,” said Bayley, who is one of over 1,000 elite athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, allowing him to train full time, have access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering medical support – this is vital for his pathway to the Paris 2024 Games.
“At 19 years old, in Beijing 2008 and just before that, I wasn’t funded by anyone, so I was having to self-fund.
“I don’t come from a massively wealthy background, and we couldn’t afford to send me to tournaments.
“After Beijing 2008, I got that funding and was going to tournaments and competing, it paid for my training, and I was able to play full time.
“It gave me the opportunity to be the best version of myself. It’s been massive for me and been consistent throughout my career, so it’s made a massive difference.”
“The funding gave me the opportunity to play in loads of different continents around the world, learning from different players and going on training camps against different styles.
“I’ve learnt a lot from that. To have that opportunity has been amazing and I’m really grateful.”
Bayley moved back closer to home after Tokyo 2020 and now trains out of Brighton Table Tennis Club, a National Lottery-funded organisation.
He speaks about the importance of the funding in a new video filmed at the club.
Relocating to the south coast has helped him rediscover his best form while also enabling him to see first-hand the impact the funding has made on the community.
“It’s been amazing to be here full time at Brighton Table Tennis Club,” he said.
“It is an amazing community club. It’s open for everyone so if you’ve got long term health conditions, or if you’re a refugee, you can come here and get unbelievable training.
“That’s rare in sport and unbelievably special. With a lot of sports, you need to have money to access them and pay for coaches but here you can play for free which is great.”
And ahead of Paris 2024, Bayley paid tribute to National Lottery players who have played a vital role in his career.
“The people who buy a lottery ticket probably don’t appreciate the difference they make,” he added.
“The funding has made a massive difference to my career; without it I wouldn’t have been able to win medals for Great Britain, so it’s made a massive difference.”
National Lottery players raise more than £30million a week for good causes including vital funding into sport – from grassroots to elite. Find out how your numbers make amazing happen at: www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk #TNLAthletes #MakeAmazingHappen