Will Bayley has admitted he will be “devastated” if he can’t compete in next year’s Paralympics in Tokyo because of the serious knee injury that forced him to pull out of this year’s Strictly Come Dancing.
On Wednesday, Will confirmed that he would be making an early exit from the BBC dance show after damaging his knee during rehearsals.
The table tennis player broke down in tears after announcing his decision – and is now worried about the impact it could have on his sporting career.
The 31-year-old told The Sun: “I’m so gutted. I was just in total shock. It has been a traumatic four days for me.
“I knew I had felt my knee pop and I was in agony. I’m not going to lie,
the second I landed and felt it I thought ‘Tokyo’ but thought I’d get some physio, rest it for a day, and be back dancing next week.
“I can take pain, I’ve been in pain all my life, but I screamed in agony and the next day I couldn’t do anything, so alarm bells started ringing.
“It has hurt ever since. I went for a scan, and now the decision has been taken out of my hands.”
Will was born with arthrogryposis, a debilitating limb condition which leaves him in pain just from walking.
Despite this, he is currently ranked the world No.1 table tennis player and is the reigning Paralympic gold medallist having triumphed in the Rio de Janeiro games in 2016.
After tearing his anterior cruciate ligament, Will could be facing six months out of action, with the Tokyo games set to begin in August 2020.
“If I have to miss Tokyo it would be devastating,” he said. “I’m at the top of my career. I’ve played four major tournaments this season and I’ve won three gold medals. I’m the best player in the world at the moment.
“So this is just massively scary to have this injury at this moment. It’s only just starting to sink in.”
On Wednesday, Will, who was partnered with professional dancer Janette Manrara, made a tearful appearance on Strictly spin-off show It Takes Two.
He said he had not wanted his turn on the dance floor to end this way.
“I wouldn’t mind properly ending it, even if we went out next week or something, I just didn’t want to end it like this,” he said.
Thanking Janette, he said: “I came into this show so scared of dancing.
“I was really scared of embarrassing myself. But she believed in me.”
Tearfully, he told host Zoe Ball: “To me, it meant more than just a show, because I just wanted to try and help people as well.”
Will said he had been “loving every single second” of his time on the programme.
“I’m just really gutted because we had such a good run and I was loving it,” he said.
“It’s all been a bit… everything has happened so fast. So it’s like, shocking, as well.”
Strictly Come Dancing continues on BBC One this Saturday.