Anna Hursey table tennis

Anna Hursey table tennis. Pic: Getty Images

Anna Hursey Dreaming Of Olympic History . . . The Youngest Welsh Star To Head To The Games For 30 Years


By Graham Thomas

Anna Hursey is dreaming of Olympic glory this summer as she prepares to become the youngest Welsh athlete for 30 years to go to the Games.

Dreaming comes easy to the 17-year-old table tennis star from Cardiff, who slept for 15 hours straight after securing her place in the Great Britain squad.

Hursey is no stranger to making global headlines. Six years ago, she became the youngest person in history to compete at the Commonwealth Games at the age of just 11.

Now, she is about to join a handful of Welsh teenagers who have gone to an Olympics after booking her place in the GB squad for Paris.

Hursey grabbed one of just five available places for the women’s singles event at a qualification tournament in Sarajevo last weekend.

When she gets to Paris in late July, she will be just a month past her 18th birthday – making her the sixth youngest Welsh Olympian and the youngest since gymnast Sonia Lawrence competed at the 1996 Atlanta Games at the age of 16.

Hursey – a former pupil at Cardiff High School – broke into the world’s top 100 for the first time earlier this year and her qualification success came after a string of victories against players ranked higher than her current world No.98 rating.

The highlight of the Carmarthen-born player’s unbeaten seven-match sequence was a 4-3 victory against Tatiana Kukulkova of Slovakia, after being 3-0 down.

“I think that’s the first time I have come back to win from 3-0 down in a match and it proves my mentality in matches is getting stronger,” says Hursey.

“That’s something that is going to be super important for me in the future – to have that mental strength.”

Hursey has already competed for Wales at two Commonwealth Games, the first being her dramatic debut at the Gold Coast in 2018.

She was then a bronze medalist with Charlotte Carey in the women’s doubles in Birmingham in 2022.

“I haven’t allowed myself to think too much about Paris yet, because it’s quite a while away,” she adds.

“I have got two more tournaments in Europe before then which I need to help with my preparation.

“But going to an Olympic Games is just really exciting and a dream I’ve had since I started playing when I was five.”

Firstly, though, Hursey will continue to rest after admitting the intensity of the schedule in Sarajevo had left her exhausted.

“I am used to only playing one or two matches in a day, not three or four as we had to do in Sarajevo.

“I was so tired afterwards I slept straight through for 15 hours!”

When she does get the France later this summer, she is intent on continuing the bold, attacking approach she believes was crucial to her success.

“I definitely played some of my best stuff I’ve played in that qualification tournament and I think that was partly down to the approach,” said Hursey, who has now withdrawn from ranking tournaments in both the USA and Argentina.

“We didn’t pinpoint this particular tournament any more than others because it has all been about trying to take the pressure off, and just play the competitions as they come.

“I knew I had a chance for the Olympics through ranking, even if I didn’t make it through qualification, so that made me more relaxed.

“I also tried to play with a fast tempo, with lots of movement, and be attacking. Those are my strengths.”

Hursey’s progress through the senior rankings has accelerated with recent success that shot her up from 163 in the rankings last summer.

She reached her first senior tournament final in October in Doha, where she finished with a silver medal after losing to world No.62 Joan Zeng of Singapore.

That breakthrough – which included three earlier victories over players ranked in the top 100 – took Hursey to just outside the top 100, to No. 106.

In the middle of November, Hursey then won a major U19 tournament in Slovakia that carried senior world ranking points.

That propelled her to inside the leading 100 senior women for the first time – the second Welsh women to make it into the top 100 after Carey five years ago.

Anna Hursey Finds Top Form On The Road To Paris Olympics


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