By Graham Thomas
National coach Josh Morgan believes a healthy medal tally from the Home Nations International tournament proves the future strength of Welsh table tennis will extend beyond Anna Hursey.
In a week where 17-year-old Hursey broke into the top 100 women players in the world, other Welsh youngsters underlined their protentional in Bangor at the weekend.
Led by a gold medal display from Lowri Hurd and Ruby Elliott in the junior girls’ doubles, Wales came away from Bangor with 16 medals – one gold, eight silver and seven bronze.
— Owen Rodgers (@owenrodgers4) November 9, 2023
The bi-annual tournament is a useful barometer of young talent pushing through among the competing nations of Wales, England, Scotland, Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.
Hursey and seven-times Welsh champion Charlotte Carey were competing overseas, but the strong results achieved by Wales at both junior (U19) and cadet (U15) level has given Morgan plenty of encouragement around future success.
“It’s always difficult to gauge success from a one-off tournament, but the team performed really well and it was a very positive weekend,” said Morgan.
“The gold medal for Lowri and Ruby probably exceeded our expectations, if we are honest. It was something of a surprise result against the English girls, but it was absolutely fully deserved.”
National Coach Josh Morgan.
The silver medal haul included an individual runners-up spot for 17-year-old Harri Docherty in the junior boys singles, before Docherty then paired with Oscar Marriott to take silver in the junior boys doubles.
There was another silver success in the cadet girls doubles for Lily Walters and Darcey Taylor.
Wales also picked up a silver medal in the senior women’s team event, where Lara Whitton and Danielle Kelly both beat English opponents to prevent an England clean sweep across the team matches.
Gold medalist Hurd, 16 – daughter of former Commonwealth Games bronze medalist Natasha Hurd – is a pupil at the Charles Read Academy in Lincolnshire, whilst Elliott is part of the Welsh performance squad at the recently established table tennis academy at Merthyr College.
“The gold medal just shows the hard work that both girls have put in and was really pleasing,” added Morgan.
“I think we have a lot of talent coming through in Wales at present and the success across the board at Bangor sets us up nicely for the Welsh National Championships early next year.”
Great to be back with @walesTT teammate @rhys_tt in @CardiffCityTTC . Lots of points taken from today’s session and great to catch up 🏴 #BetterNeverStops #WinOrLearn #Hustle @GCollege_TTA @Joshmorgan18 @sjenkinsTT pic.twitter.com/rLZqw7lulf
— Harri Docherty 🏴🏓🏴 (@HarriDochertyTT) October 24, 2022
Both Hursey and Carey will be back to compete at the National Championships, alongside five-times Welsh men’s champion Callum Evans, who picked up a bronze medal in the senior men’s event in Bangor.
Hursey’s breakthrough into the top 100 – she is now up to No.97 – came after she recently leaped 57 places up the rankings in October and on the back or reaching her first senior World Table Tennis (WTT) tournament final.
She backed that status up by winning gold at last week’s WTT Youth Contender tournament in Senec, Slovakia.
Her elevated status inside the world’s top 100 means Hursey is on track to become a realistic contender to make the Great Britain squad for next summer’s Olympic Games in Paris.
“Anna is reaping the rewards for her hard work and determination and her achievements are obviously an inspiration to every young player in Wales,” added Morgan.
“But she is also very grounded and mixes well with all the other young Welsh players whenever she’s back in their company.
“It’s great for the sport to have genuine role models like Anna and Charlotte who have really been showing the way forward for all our young players.”
Bringing home the Welsh National Champion trophy for the 7th time 🏆🥇🏓 This one was for Grampa and Jo ❤️ pic.twitter.com/ODxJVaeP6x
— Charlotte Carey (@charlcareytt) March 7, 2022
England were the dominant force in the Home Nations, winning all six team golds as well as a stack of singles and doubles golds.