It’s getting to that time of year again – ‘Strictly’ is back and with it a fresh new line up of celebs taking to the stage to impress the ever po-faced panel of judges. This year Will Bayley is among them. The table tennis Paralympian who won gold in Rio in 2016 hopes to make his mark despite being a self-professed non-dancer. His participation will not only serve to entertain, however, but continue to elevate disability awareness.
Much has been done to further disability awareness over the years. That said, it must be observed that the disabled community remains comparatively underrepresented on prime time television. However, the BBC’s leading entertainment show ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ has once again made sure it is doing its bit for inclusivity and equality.
Will Bayley is a hugely successful table tennis player, who won silver and gold at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympic Games respectively. This year, he will be joining the ranks of be-sequined stars as they pit their foxtrots, salsas and cha-cha-chá against one another to win the approval of the judges and the UK public. Will has arthrogryposis which is a condition which causes joint contractures, dislocations and other skeletal deformities such as clubfoot. The literal translation of the Greek means “curving of the joint”, though the condition can be characterised by a myriad of different symptoms.
A related symptom of arthrogryposis is muscle weakness or wasting which can cause issues with balance and co-ordination. Such challenges are not exactly welcome when trying to perfect your quickstep, though Will seems undaunted. On the contrary, he was flattered to be joining the cast of strictly which is a favourite in his family household.
Will is by no means the first disabled contestant on strictly. Jonnie Peacock, Lauren Steadman, and Katie Piper have all strutted their stuff under the spotlights, though it is arguable that Will’s disability will present a very different set of obstacles to overcome. The contest will doubtless put his strength, balance and core through their paces in which they have never been tested before. Fortunately, ballroom dancing is very much a team sport and he will surely receive some excellent coaching from Janette, his dance partner.
Either way, Will, as one would expect from a champion, is not phased by what lies ahead. Indeed, he seems set to throw himself into the show and will also use it to raise the profile of his disability as well as helping to prove that such physical impairments are no barrier to achieving one’s goals.
In any case, it looks like another excellent line up this year for Strictly Come Dancing this year and I, like so many others, can’t wait for when it hits our TV screens in October.