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11-year-old Hursey has success on Commonwealth Games debut

April 5, 2018

Wales' eleven-year-old table tennis player Anna Hursey, center, walks in with teammate Chloe Thomas, left, and India's Manika Batra before their women's team match the 2018 Commonwealth Games at the Oxenford Studios on the Gold Coast, Australia, Thursday, April 5, 2018. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

GOLD COAST, Australia (AP) — At the age of 11, table tennis player Anna Hursey is taking her Commonwealth Games debut all in her very short stride.

The youngest competitor at the Gold Coast games stepped up to the table with Wales needing to win to stay alive against India.

Partnering Charlotte Carey, Hursey played some big forehands to help the Welsh seal victory 3-2.

The game was part of the team event, a best-of-five series, which Wales lost 3-1 against one of the medal favorites.

Watching from the stands, her mother Phoebe, cheered and gave a double thumbs up as her daughter made a stunning Commonwealth Games debut.

Hersey didn’t speak with waiting reporters. A team delegate explained that it was Wales’ official team policy — for the entire Commonwealth Games team — for juniors not to speak to media during competition.

She didn’t really need to.

Hursey did her talking on the court and then her coach and doubles partner spoke on her behalf.

Coach Steve Jenkins applauded his young charge and the country’s new combination.

“They’ve never played together before and I went on instinct,” Jenkins said. “Charlotte is our No. 1 player and thought she could help Anna through it.

“They gelled well and it gives me options going forward.”

He said Hursey was relaxed despite the occasion, and that was best for everyone.

“She plays better when she’s relaxed,” he said, “and it’s my job to keep her happy.”

Playing partner Carey said her overwhelming feeling was one of pride in her young teammate.

“I just felt really proud. Her eyes wondered a couple of times but in all she had really good focus,” Carey said. “We wanted her to have confidence and to know she is good enough.”

Carey said Hursey’s composure is such that the team members have to remind themselves that their most junior member was still at school.

“Sometimes have to be careful what we’re talking about — we forget she’s 11,” Carey said. “But I think it’s great the attention she’s bringing to our sport.”

Perhaps the only time the ping pong prodigy acts her age is around ice-cream and energy drinks.

“She needs to go to bed earlier than us and we have to stop her from drinking 12 Powerades hanging around in fridges for free,” Carey said. ”... that and the free ice-cream in the village.”

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