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Commonwealth Games set to start with 11-year-old among the athletes

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An 11-year-old table tennis player is one of some 5,000 athletes set to compete at the Commonwealth Games, which open this week in Gold Coast, Australia.

Anna Hursey of Wales could be the youngest competitor in the history of the games, a stat that has gone unconfirmed with records from the earliest editions in the 1930s reportedly incomplete.

The Commonwealth Games are the biggest summer multi-sport competition outside of the Olympics, held every four years. The Opening Ceremony is Wednesday. The Closing Ceremony is April 15.

The U.S. is not part of the Commonwealth of Nations. Instead, the notable delegations competing in Gold Coast are host Australia, Canada, Jamaica, South Africa and those that make up Great Britain at the Olympics, led by England.

Most of the sports are also in the Olympics, but some are not, such as lawn bowls.

Usain Bolt competed at the Commonwealth Games in 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland. The Gold Coast edition is headlined by Olympic champions Elaine Thompson and Caster Semenya in track and field, Chad le Clos and Adam Peaty in swimming and Max Whitlock in gymnastics.

Then there is Hursey, the 11-year-old table tennis prodigy from Cardiff with a website and YouTube channel.

Hursey, whose parents reportedly met in the table tennis hotbed of China, started playing when she was 4 or 5 and advanced after receiving coaching in China on a trip with her mother. Her father, Larry, used to play the sport.

The table was nearly the height of her shoulders when she started, evidenced by the YouTube channel, which has separate highlights of Hursey playing at ages 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10.

By 2015, the BBC started covering Hursey. A coach told the network that at age 9, she had probably beaten everyone in the under-18 division in Wales.

“Those people [are] not her target,” her mom, Xiuli Zhang, told the BBC in 2016. “Asian countries, those players should be her target. If she can beat them, she probably can be one of the best.”

Hursey made her senior international debut for Wales last year, winning four of six matches in a lower division at the European Championships. She is No. 568 in the senior world rankings and third in Wales. She’s No. 20 in the world under-15 age rankings.

The youngest recorded Olympian was Greek gymnast Dimitrios Loundras, who competed at the first modern Games in Athens in 1896 at age 10.

Hursey will be 14 come Tokyo 2020, but it appears unlikely she will be there as a competitor. Not only are there two women in Wales ranked ahead of her, but also four women from England. Plus, Great Britain last fielded a female Olympic table tennis player in 1996, aside from when it hosted at London 2012.

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VIDEO: Olympic medalist rides bike 18 months after crash, paralysis

Olympic medalist faces machine in table tennis (video)

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Olympic table tennis bronze medalist Jun Mizutani of Japan took on a different type of challenger on Monday — FORPHEUS, a machine.

FORPHEUS wasn’t quite high-tech enough to handle Mizutani’s normal attacking play, according to Agence France-Presse.

Video clips show the bronze medalist in a light hitting session with the robot.

“It wasn’t any different form playing a human,” Mizutani said, according to an Olympic Channel translation. “It kept getting better as we played. To be honest, I wanted to play it at its maximum level to see how good it is. If it evolves further, it might be a very good practice partner for table tennis players.”

FORPHEUS, introduced in 2015, was given the Guinness World Records title in February for being the first robot table tennis tutor.

“FORPHEUS also features an array of cameras that are situated above the ping-pong table, which monitors the position of the ball at an impressive rate of 80 times per second,” according to Guinness World Records. “This functionality also allows the robot to show its human student to see a projected image as to where the return ball will land so that they may improve their skills.”

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VIDEO: 766-shot table tennis rally

A 766-shot table-tennis rally takes 10 minutes (video)

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A 766-shot table-tennis rally, believed to be the longest ever, was a highlight of a tournament in Qatar this week.

Rio Olympian Li Jie of the Netherlands and Hitomi Sato of Japan played for 10 minutes, 13 seconds, neither wanting to attack, before the point was cut short (mercifully) by another ball bouncing near the table.

An expedite rule, forcing a point to end within 13 shots by the player returning serve, was then enforced to speed up play. Li ended up winning in the maximum seven games.

Li and Sato were playing at the International Table Tennis Federation World Tour’s Qatar Open.

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