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Anna’s White House mission to tackle climate change

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Anna Hursey has revealed it was breathing problems she suffered in China that first alerted her of the pressing need to campaign for action on climate change.

The young Welsh table tennis star made the headlines away from the table recently when it emerged she would be joining President Biden’s bid to tackle the climate crisis.

The new US administration has opted to recruit young high profile activists from the around the world and 14-year-old Anna was pleased to answer the call which came via the American Embassy in London.

It’s a cause that is close to her heart because the effects of a changing environment and poor air quality has been too close to her lungs.

Anna Hursey hits shot in table tennis doubles match with Charlotte Carey at Gold Coast 2018


“I know all about the effects of air pollution because I have asthma,” says Anna.

“When I have been to China a few times in the past, I have noticed that the air affects me a lot more than it does in Wales.

“I had more trouble breathing and that means it alters my fitness levels and I’m not able to train as hard. So, I know what it’s like to feel those things. It’s not very nice and it makes you think a lot about the future and what that might be like.”

Anna’s trips to China – her mother Phoebe’s homeland – were undertaken with the aim to give her some top level training opposition in the country that dominates the world rankings for both women and men at senior level as well as age group categories.

She based herself in the city of Harbin in Heilongjiang province where she was able to hone the talent that has already made her Wales’ No.2 ranked player behind Charlotte Carey, her doubles partner at the 2018 Commonwealth Games where Anna became Wales’ youngest ever competitor at just 11.

Travel has been a constant theme in Anna’s short life so far. She was born in Carmarthen, began her schooling in Swansea and then moved to Cardiff, where she is currently living.

Her plans to return to China this time last year had to be shelved because of the pandemic, and after briefly re-locating to Peterborough she is now back in Cardiff and training with Table Tennis Wales under the watchful eye of her coach Steve Jenkins.

If it’s true that travel broadens the mind, then Anna has taken the opportunity to develop her interest in environmental issues, inspired by the likes of Greta Thunberg.

“Whenever I looked at the news there were stories about bush fires and earthquakes and hurricanes all the time,” she says.

“You would think people would take notice about what is happening to the world but not everybody seems to.

“We are all affected by climate change and trying to do something about it just means trying to look after yourself and your family and friends.”

Her planned role on behalf of the US Embassy has yet to be fully planned and it will be structured to fit around her training and tournament schedule .

But she hopes to have some involvement in Earth Day on April 22, whilst also helping publicise the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November.

"I think sports people can have influence,” says Anna. “Loads of people play and watch sport, so hopefully sports people can speak out about it and let people know.

“I think more sports people could use their position to speak up and make sure people are talking about the climate. I first started to think about it a couple of years ago.”

Wherever her activism takes her though, Anna insists her focus on table tennis will remain intense as she looks ahead to her second Commonwealth Games appearance next year in Birmingham.

Three years ago, Hursey and Carey reached the quarter-finals of the team event before Anna also notched one victory in her singles event.

Three years on and she will be looking to surpass those achievements as well as looking to even bigger stages in the future. 

"I’m really excited about the Commonwealth Games in 2022. Being so close in Birmingham, it will mean almost a home crowd, hopefully, and lots of support.

“After that, my goal is to go to the Olympics and try and win a medal. That would be just amazing.”

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