Bailey Matthew, the eight-year-old from Doncaster who became an overnight sensation after his feats at this summer’s Castle Howard Triathlon, has been honoured with the Helen Rollason Award at tonight’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards.
Bailey, who has cerebral palsy, competed in his first-ever triathlon at July’s Castle Triathlon Series event, racing the 100m lake swim, 4km bike and 1.3km run ‘Garfield’ event in Yorkshire.
As Bailey approached the finish of the run, he dropped his walking support with 20m to go and completed the home straight unaided. Hundreds of spectators lined the chute – some roaring their support, others in tears – as the eight-year-old tumbled a couple of times before picking himself up to cross the line into arms of his proud parents, Jonathan and Julie.
The story became a social media sensation, gaining over 50,000 Facebook ‘Likes’ in two days on the Castle Tri Series page before being picked up by countless newspapers, including the Daily Mirror and Daily Mail, and major media outlets in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Scandinavia, Germany, America and more.
With Bailey transcending the sport of tri to become an international inspiration, we caught up with his dad Jono to talk SPOTY, Bailey’s future tri plans and, erm, the Foo Fighters…
220: What does it mean to you all to be recognised by such a prestigious award? What was your reaction when you were notified?
Jono: It’s absolutely amazing that Bailey has been recognised for all his awards, but the Sports Personality of the Year really is the cream on his cake. When the BBC rang me to tell me he’d been awarded it, I was speechless and, once I’d got my breath back, I could’ve fallen through the floor. We’re all so very proud of Bailey and his attitude to life and his non-defeatist approach to whatever task is put in front him. For the rest of the world to be feeling the same [as us] is outstanding.
How have things for Bailey changed since his feats at the Castle Howard tri made headlines around the world?
Things for Bailey personally haven’t really changed. We don’t think he quite understands the magnitude of his achievement and what all the publicity he’s had all means. Everytime he gets a new award he says the same thing, ‘What have I done so special to deserve this? I’ve only done a blooming triathlon!’
What’s next for Bailey in triathlon? Will he be racing more Castle Ti Series events?
Bailey is really looking forward to next season. We’re lining up to do the full Castle Tri Series next season, which should be a great adventure for us all. Bailey is particularly looking forward to his open-water swim training as this is his favourite discipline.
Who are Bailey’s own sporting heroes?
Bailey doesn’t have any sporting heroes. The only famous person he knows of and follows is Dave Grohl from the band The Foo Fighters as this is his favourite band. Bailey was truly heartbroken when Dave fell off stage and broke his leg. But he’s a good hero to have as he showed the same grit and determination and got back up and carried on playing!
And what are Bailey’s interests away from tri?
His interests away from sport are learning the guitar, piano and drums. He also writes his own short stories and has a keen interest in law as his uncle is a barrister, and they spend loads of time talking about law and the ins and outs of it.