Kettering's Dermot dedicates Paralympics call up to former coach

The wheelchair tennis star has described being selected for the Tokyo Paralympic Games as 'brilliant'

Thursday, 24th June 2021, 3:42 pm
Dermot Bailey
Dermot Bailey

Emotional Dermot Bailey dedicated his Paralympic Games selection to a former Northamptonshire tennis coach who died in 2013.

Bailey, from Kettering, was this week officially selected in the ParalympicsGB team set to descend on Tokyo alongside the likes of recent French Open champions Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid.

Bailey has racked up a total of 19 men’s singles wheelchair tennis titles since 2008 and first honed his craft in Northamptonshire under the guidance of local coach Kevin Hoey.

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Hoey, a former county captain and programme performance manager at Corby Tennis Club, tragically died aged just 32 in 2013 and Bailey, 27, paid a heartfelt tribute to his mentor and close friend.

Bailey, one of over 1,000 athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, said: “I’ve had some difficult times along the way.

“(Kevin) passed away when I was 18 and I’d been working with him for six or seven years at the time.

“The impact of Kevin was massive. We’d been working together since I was so young and we went through that whole difficult spell of being a teenager and then becoming an adult together.

“We didn’t get to finish the journey we were on together, which was disappointing and frustrating. But people around me picked me up at that time, which was difficult.

“I try not to think about it too much because if I get too emotional it’s not going to help me perform.

“But (reaching the Paralympic Games) is something we’ve been working towards, so it’s brilliant that we’ve made it now.

“It’s been my number one goal to qualify and see what I can do at a Paralympics.”

Bailey’s wheelchair tennis career has been powered by UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme that allows him to train full-time, access the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support.

He’s soared to a bucket load of clay and hard court glories since winning an ITF Future Series event in Cardiff 13 years ago and racked up ten total titles – across singles and doubles – during a decorated 2018 and 2019.

That propelled him into contention for Tokyo and Bailey, the singles world No.26, has now secured his seat on the plane.

He’s relishing the prospect of travelling with Hewett – a 16-time Grand Slam champion – and Rio 2016 gold medallist Reid and hopes learning from the best can propel him to glory in Japan.

“It’s big shoes to fill after Rio – the players who went out there did such an exceptional job and we’ve still got the same players now,” added Bailey, who is bidding to add the 864 Olympic and Paralympic medals won by Great Britain and Northern Ireland athletes since the advent of National Lottery funding in 1997 in Tokyo.

“It’s great to be able to call on that experience and speak to some of the more senior members of the team about how you can improve,

“It’s a big thing because it’s not a normal competition – so that additional pressure is all about how you handle it.”

No one does more to support our Olympic and Paralympic athletes than National Lottery players, who raise around £36 million each week for good causes. Discover the positive impact playing the National Lottery has on sport at www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk and get involved by using the hashtags: #TNLAthletes #TracktoTokyo