Story/Interview August 9, 2022
King’s InterHigh student Anna Hursey sets medal record at the 2022 Commonwealth Games
In an incredible victory this week, 16-year-old King’s InterHigh student Anna Hursey has become this year’s youngest table tennis medallist at the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Plus, she and her women’s doubles partner Charlotte Carey have set a new record for their home country, Wales. Scoring bronze in their final match, the pair are now the first ever Welsh women to win in table tennis at the Commonwealth Games.
Anna and 26-year-old Charlotte took the 3-1 win after a series of skillful games against table tennis powerhouses. Following the final game, Anna told press, “We could easily have lost the first two sets, but we got through it. We both played absolutely amazing. We were both nervous, but we got through it in the end.”
Balancing training with schooling
Not only is Anna the youngest competitor to win a table tennis medal at the Games this year, she also became the youngest Commonwealth Games competitor in history at the age of just 11.
While many her age spend their days in classrooms, Anna can spend 35 to 40 hours a week training— but that doesn’t mean she’s sacrificing her education. In fact, Anna sat her IGCSE exams just months before the Games.
Many young athletes find it hard to learn and train at the same time, but the balance is simple for Anna with our online schooling. “I’m often abroad and would usually be unable to attend mainstream school,” she says, referring to her training regimes across Wales, China, and Portugal.
Anna says she missed a lot of lessons at her previous school. In contrast, alongside teaching all our lessons live online, we also record every class, so learners can catch up on missed work at any time. Anna says, “If I’m busy with table tennis, I can just go back and listen to the recorded lessons, so I don’t have to miss out on anything.” Since King’s InterHigh is accessible from anywhere in the world, she also attends live lessons from her training hall and while traveling.
Now, all that work building table tennis skills has paid off with an amazing Commonwealth Games win. When asked about her match with Charlotte Carey, Anna said, “We trained for it and we deserved to win that medal. I was so happy at the end. I was in tears, too.”
Naturally, training for achievements like this isn’t easy. “In sport, everyone is competing to be the best they can be, meaning a lot of training is required,” Anna says, explaining, “With King’s InterHigh, I can do my studies effectively while utilising my time for training and competitions.”
Parenting a young athlete
As many families of young athletes know, raising a sports star is rarely easy either. Parents and guardians often have to assume additional roles, from manager to health coach, and it’s a time-consuming task. This is something that rang true for Anna’s mother, Zhang Xiuli, who took a four-year break from her career to keep up with Anna’s demanding schedule. Even then, they had little time to spend with each other as mother and daughter.
Online schooling has been a saving grace there too. Xiuli currently works online, which means she can often sync her workday with Anna’s school lessons. Now, Xiuli says, “We have lots of valuable free time together.”
More than a table tennis icon and a hard-working student, Anna is also a Young Champion for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and recently advised Joe Biden on how to help the environment.
Suffering from asthma, Anna struggled to breathe while training and competing in pollution-heavy countries, fuelling her passion for eco-friendliness. To remain carbon neutral as an international sportsperson, she uses “as few fossil fuels as possible” and invests her time in projects to help the environment and those in need.
All in all, Anna has achieved an incredible amount (especially given her age), and she still has far to go. While none of it would be possible without her hard work and determination, King’s InterHigh is proud to support Anna and so many ambitious young people like her with schooling that fits around their goals. “With King’s InterHigh, you can achieve what every you want really, and still study,” Anna sums up.
So, what’s next for this young Commonwealth winner? As Anna enters her final years of school, she’s still looking to balance her life as a star athlete with all-important education. “I hope to be no.1 in the world and win the Olympics,” she told Sportsmail recently, adding, “Then maybe one day I will go into politics.”