Reigning Paralympic champion Will Bayley booted an advertising board with joy after progressing to the gold medal match of the class seven table tennis with a nail-biting win in Tokyo.
Kent-born Bailey was forced to save a match point as he survived a stunning comeback from China’s Liao Keli in an enthralling semi-final, where the momentum shifted throughout.
He was in a commanding position at 2-0 and eventually prevailed 3-2, edging the deciding game 12-10 before deliriously kicking his way out of the arena, for which he indifferently accepted a yellow card.
The 33-year-old, who worked his way back from a serious knee injury suffered on Strictly Come Dancing in 2019 to be at the Games, will face another Chinese player, Yan Shuo, in Sunday’s final – his third in succession at the Paralympics – hoping for a repeat of his triumph in Rio.
“It was pure relief and surprise as well because there were thoughts going through my mind at some points in that match that I had thrown it away,” Bayley said of his animated response to victory.
“I showed some real guts at the end and I played some really big points because Keli didn’t stop.”
Elsewhere in Japan on Saturday, Bayley’s team-mates Paul Karabardak and Jack Hunter-Spivey, and powerlifter Micky Yule, each won bronze, while GB’s wheelchair rugby team are guaranteed a first Paralympic medal after reaching the final.
Karabardak lost his class six semi-final to American Ian Seidenfeld 3-0 but collected still his first Paralympic medal at the fourth time of asking, while Hunter-Spivey was beaten in the last four of the class five competition.
Afghanistan veteran Yule, who lost his left leg after stepping on an improvised explosive device while serving with the Royal Engineers in 2010, managed 182kg on his final lift in the men’s -72 kg category.
In the rugby at Yoyogi National Stadium, Jim Roberts scored 20 tries and Aaron Phipps 17 as Britain defeated hosts Japan 55-49 to reach Sunday’s gold medal showdown.
On the first day of triathlon, Fran Brown and Alison Peasgood narrowly missed out on podium places, finishing fourth in the women’s PTS2 and PTVI respectively in times of 1:19:42 and 1:11:47.
Peasgood was just two seconds off bronze.
Michael Taylor was eighth in the men’s PTS4 at Odaiba Marine Park and Dave Ellis did not finish in the men’s PTVI.