Will Bayley fears the injury that forced him to quit Strictly Come Dancing could rule him out of defending his Paralympic crown in Tokyo next year.
The table tennis player, 31, pulled out of Strictly after suffering a serious knee injury during rehearsals.
He broke down in tears after announcing his decision – and is now worried about the impact it could have on his sporting career.
Bayley told The Sun: “I’m so gutted. I was just in total shock. It has been a traumatic four days for me.
“I knew I had felt my knee pop and I was in agony. I’m not going to lie, the second I landed and felt it I thought ‘Tokyo’ but thought I’d get some physio, rest it for a day, and be back dancing next week.
“I can take pain, I’ve been in pain all my life, but I screamed in agony and the next day I couldn’t do anything, so alarm bells started ringing.
“It has hurt ever since. I went for a scan, and now the decision has been taken out of my hands.”
Bayley was born with arthrogryposis, a debilitating limb condition which leaves him in pain just from walking.
Despite this, he is currently ranked the world number one table tennis player and is the reigning Paralympic gold medallist having triumphed in the Rio de Janeiro games in 2016.
After tearing his anterior cruciate ligament, Bayley could be facing six months out of action, with the Tokyo games set to begin in August 2020.
“If I have to miss Tokyo it would be devastating,” he said. “I’m at the top of my career. I’ve played four major tournaments this season and I’ve won three gold medals. I’m the best player in the world at the moment.
“So this is just massively scary to have this injury at this moment. It’s only just
starting to sink in.”
On Wednesday, Bayley, who was partnered with professional dancer Janette Manrara, made a tearful appearance on Strictly spin-off show It Takes Two.
He said he had not wanted his turn on the dancefloor to end this way.
“I wouldn’t mind properly ending it, even if we went out next week or something, I just didn’t want to end it like this,” he said.
Thanking Manrara, he said: “I came into this show so scared of dancing.
“I was really scared of embarrassing myself. But she believed in me.”
Tearfully, he told host Zoe Ball: “To me, it meant more than just a show, because I just wanted to try and help people as well.”
Bayley said he had been “loving every single second” of his time on the programme.
“I’m just really gutted because we had such a good run and I was loving it,” he said.
“It’s all been a bit… everything has happened so fast. So it’s like, shocking, as well.”
Strictly Come Dancing continues on BBC One.