Risk will be worth it if Dermot’s Tokyo dream becomes a reality
Dermot Bailey knew quitting his job to focus on wheelchair tennis was a risk but it will be one worth taking if it takes him to his maiden Paralympic Games next year.
Bailey used to juggle his life as an elite wheelchair tennis athlete with his job as a financial analyst at Kettering General Hospital.
But when the 25-year-old missed out on qualification for Rio by one ranking place in 2016, he decided he wanted to do all he could to make the grade for the next edition of the Games in Tokyo.
One year ago, Bailey, who has Perthes Disease, which affects his mobility, bid farewell to office life to fully dedicate himself to the sport he fell in love with as a teenager – the decision has worked well so far, but there’s still a long way to go before he finds out whether it will pay off.
“If I was selected I think it would be hard to put into words really,” said Bailey, speaking at a Sainsbury’s store in Kettering.
“I’d be so happy with it because, giving up the work situation and everything, you sort of take a risk to try and qualify so it would justify all of the work for the last few years.
“It’s been a dream of mine to represent ParalympicsGB at a Games, probably since before London to be honest.
“I didn’t quite get to that one, but from then on I was always determined to try and go to a Games.
“In wheelchair tennis it’s based on ranking and the qualification period started in June and finishes on June 6 next year.
“You have to be in the top 40 in the world to qualify through the ranking system.
“At the minute I’m 27th. I knew I wanted to be in Tokyo, I knew what to expect, I’ve now just committed to it and hope I will qualify.”
Life on the court has been full of success for Bailey of late, the 25-year-old reaching his first ITF 2 Series men’s singles final in the USA last month just after celebrating back-to-back men’s singles titles in Europe.
Before competing in America, Bailey had never beaten a player ranked inside the world’s top 12, but he defeated world No.11 Daniel Rodrigues in the quarter final and world No.14 Agustin Ledesma in the semi before losing to Takashi Sanada in the final.
When he first started playing Wheelchair Tennis, Bailey never thought he would be competing with the big guns and sometimes he can still hardly believe the opportunities disability sport has offered him already so early on in his career.
“I went in unseeded and I was sitting there thinking I’ll just go out there and try and win a round,” added Bailey, who was helping to promote Sainsbury’s role as longest-standing supporter of ParalympicsGB and a champion of inclusive sport for all.
“I got through the first round and thought I’d ticked off my target.
“But in the second round I managed to beat the world number 11, then I beat the world number 14 in the semi-final and I thought – this isn’t meant to happen!
“It was a fantastic week for me. I’d never reached the semi-final at that level before, let alone the final.
“I never thought it would be possible to travel and play when I first started playing wheelchair tennis.
“I thought it would just be a case of going out and playing casually with friends.
“Back when I started, I didn’t really know much about disability sport.
“Now, I think if someone ended up in the same position as me, they would be well aware of the Paralympics and all the opportunities on offer.”
Sainsbury’s is the longest-standing supporter of ParalympicsGB and a champion of inclusive sport for all. Sainsbury’s commitment to helping customers live well for less has been at the heart of what we do since 1869.
For more information on Sainsbury’s commitment to inclusive sport visit https://www.about.sainsburys.co.uk/