Four countries in four days: Anna Hursey's TT journey

The 13-year-old paddler overcame Nigeria’s Ajoke Ojomu to keep Wales’ hopes of qualifying for the Commonwealth TT Championship semi-finals alive.

Anna Hursey at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium in Cuttack on Thursday.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

Four countries. Four flights. All this in a span of 48 hours!

It’s not a tale of a globetrotter but that's how it has been for a 13-year-old girl from Cardiff, who has been making rapid strides in the world of table tennis. Welcome to the world of Anna Hursey.

After finishing her European Youth Championship campaign in Ostrava, Czech Republic, the teenaged girl finally joined her Wales team-mates here early morning on Thursday, the second day of the 21st Commonwealth Games. And within a few hours, Hursey entered the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium arena and overcame Nigeria’s Ajoke Ojomu to keep Wales’ hopes of qualifying for the semi-finals alive.

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Despite being a youngster, Hursey is no stranger to attention and absorbing the big-stage pressure. After all, she was the youngest participant at the last year’s Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia. While her maturity and consistency on the table is truly amazing, off it she is just like any other girl her age: a shy, eighth-grade teenager.

“It’s been a little bit hectic. My flight was delayed so I had (only) an hour to prepare and then play this afternoon,” Hursey says.  

Even before she represented Wales’ senior team as a 10-year-old in the European Championship qualifiers, Hursey has been in the limelight for her table tennis prowess. Born to a British-Chinese couple, one would assume that her table tennis skills have been passed on by her mother Xiuli Zhang, alias Phoebe. But it was her father Larry who was an avid paddler and introduced her to the game.

In fact, even as the child prodigy is contemplating on shifting to China for a longer stint for training, Anna admits it’s her mother who is slightly wary. “My mom wants me to study and dad is like (pursue) table tennis. I like table tennis more, so both of them are extremely supportive,” she says, adding that she will spend the rest of the British summer in China. “My mom wasn’t so happy with home-school but then she said if you want to do table tennis, you could do that.”