Anna Hursey: Welsh table tennis prodigy waits on China return because of coronavirus

By Josh JenkinsBBC Sport Wales
Anna Hursey
Anna Hursey is thought to be the youngest athlete ever to represent Wales at a senior level

Welsh table tennis prodigy Anna Hursey is waiting to discover when she can return to her Chinese training base because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Hursey, 13, rose to prominence in 2018 when she competed at the Commonwealth Games at the age of just 11.

Hursey moved to China last year so she could train full time but is currently back in Wales.

"We now need to wait for an update on the situation, probably middle of the month," said Hursey's father Laurence.

"We'll probably be making decisions then. We were planning for all of us in Tianjin in early April, we have flights booked - we are ready to go.

"If we can go we will be there I am sure - that's the plan. If we can't then we have to re-evaluate the best situation for Anna's training."

Former Cardiff High School pupil Hursey, who was the youngest athlete at the 2018 Games, returned home for the Welsh National Championships last weekend.

She was beaten in the final by Charlotte Carey, the Welsh No. 1.

Carey has a chance of qualifying for this summer's Olympic Games, although her hopes have not been helped by the postponement of the World Team Table Tennis Championships.

That tournament was due to be held in South Korea later this month but has been put back until June - with no exact dates decided yet - because of the spread of coronavirus.

Carey, Hursey and 15-year-old Lara Whitton make up a youthful Welsh team for the tournament with the average age of just 16.

"It's a bit of a nightmare really because now we have got a bit of an open space in March," 22-year-old Carey, from Ebbw Vale, told BBC Radio Wales.

"It's a goldmine for ranking points. You play loads of matches so it's a great experience, to play against loads of different teams you wouldn't normally play against.

"With the Olympic qualification, we need any points we can get to try to qualify."

The postponement of the World Team Table Tennis Championships may have financial consequences for Table Tennis Wales because of travel bookings which have already been made.

"Even though the championships have been cancelled, the flight companies are not cancelling," said director Ryan Jenkins.

"We are trying to claim it back through insurance but it's difficult because of the circumstances - something they can't control."