THE morning after the biggest night of his life brought yet more amazing experiences for Bailey Matthews, the engaging eight-year-old schoolboy from Doncaster who stole the show at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards on Sunday.
Bailey received a standing ovation from a star-studded audience featuring some of the world’s best athletes when he took to the stage to receive the Helen Rollason Award for ‘outstanding achievement in the face of adversity.’
The youngster became a worldwide internet sensation in July after video footage of him completing his first triathlon at Castle Howard went viral: Bailey, who has cerebral palsy, bravely pushed away his walking aid to cross the finish line in a move that has made him an inspiration to millions of people.
And just hours after collecting the prestigious award named in honour of the former BBC presenter who died from cancer in 1999, Bailey came out fighting in style by going head-to-head with world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury.
The controversial boxer sparred with his pint-sized opponent over bacon and eggs in the pair’s Belfast hotel, much to the delight of fellow guests, Bailey and his family.
“Tyson was absolutely brilliant with Bailey, he stopped by for a chat and then the two of them had a bit of a fight,” said Bailey’s father Jonathan.
“Bailey loved it. He wasn’t star-struck at all because he doesn’t get fazed by anything. He’s such a down-to-earth little lad. To Bailey, Sunday was just another day.
“It was all very special for him but as soon as he’d spoken with everyone, done his interviews and had his photograph taken he just switched back to being Bailey and getting on with his life.”
Bailey’s grinning face as he climbed onto the stage in Belfast to be presented with the Helen Rollason Award by Olympic swimmer Becky Adlington and One Direction singer Niall Horan provided one of the most touching highlights of the popular BBC Television show.
He then went on to bring laughter to BBC Radio 5 Live in an interview with John Inverdale, who pointed at his new trophy and asked “How amazing is that?”
“I don’t think people listening to radio will be able to see it though!” he replied, before producing a response to the question ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ which left the veteran presenter speechless.
“Me,” was Bailey’s immediate comment.
The video of Bailey crossing the finishing line at Castle Howard in July has been viewed more than 30 million times on Youtube and has seen the world’s media beat a path to the door of his home in Doncaster.
“We’ve had TV crews from Japan and ESPN in America, it’s all been a bit surreal for the rest of us, if not for Bailey,” added Mr Matthews. “He just says his peace and then asks ‘What are we doing next?’ He’s not changed a bit.
“We couldn’t have expected all of this: Bailey only did the triathlon because he wanted to, it was just another family day out for us.
“He loved it and he’s now said he wants to do five more in 2016. There’s no stopping him.”
The five triathlons comprise the Castle Series and take place at Lough Cutra Castle in Galway (May 29), Cholmondeley Castle, Cheshire (June 26), Castle Howard, North Yorkshire (July 23), Chateau de Chantilly, France (August 27) and Hever Castle, Kent (September 24). They involve Bailey swimming 100m, completing a 4km bike ride and a 1.3km run.
Like the triathlon in July, there are currently no plans to raise sponsorship for charity through Bailey’s efforts but the Matthews family have not ruled out the possibility.
“We’re doing them because Bailey wants to do them, it’s as simple as that,” added Mr Matthews. “We haven’t ruled anything out and whether anything comes out of SPOTY I don’t know.
“It has all been an amazing experience. But then Bailey is an amazing young man and we’re all very proud of him.”