Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

“I moved away when I was 16 to try and get the training I needed to improve”: Team Wales’ Charlotte Carey on table tennis in Wales, Gold Coast 2018 and her long commute to work

Posted on 26 March 2018 by Ben Morse

Being the best in your country at a particular sport can sometimes come with overwhelming pressures. 

And attending your third straight Commonwealth Games could bring extra pressure as well. 

But for Charlotte Carey, Team Wales’ Women’s Table Tennis No. 1, the pressure is what it’s all about.

“Of course there’s pressure of being the number one in Wales but pressure is a privilege,” she said. “I have to try to be strong and lead my team as well as I can. Hopefully we can all work together and be a great team, not just now but in the future too.”

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But this success has not come without sacrifices having to be made by Carey. 

In an attempt to further her ability as a table tennis player, Carey plays for her club, ESV Weil which is based in Germany, while still living in Halmstad, Sweden.

This means she has to travel to Copenhagen in Denmark, fly to Basel in Switzerland and then drive to Weil. All this is after living in Hungary for a year to train while still at a youth level. 

And even after travelling all this way, she may have to travel for another six or seven hours just to reach the venue for her match if she is playing away. 

Carey views moving abroad as being her most difficult challenge that she has had to get over. 

She said: “I think my biggest hurdle has been having to move abroad. 

“In Wales table tennis isn’t seen as a professional sport and we don’t have the facilities for full-time clubs or the money to pay players to create a good level league. 

“I moved away when I was 16 to try and get the training I needed to improve.”

This dedication to move away from her home in Ebbw Vale in Wales is clear evidence of Carey’s passion for the sport. 

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Now her typical day consists of two, two-and-a-half hour training sessions on top of running and other gym work. 

And Carey was introduced to the sport at an early age by a close family member. 

She said: “My Grandfather played table tennis and I loved spending time with him so I kept begging him to take me along with him to table tennis.”

And since getting into table tennis, Carey has been very successful. 

Not only has she represented Team Wales at the two previous Commonwealth Games (she was 14 when she played in Delhi in 2010), but she has also won 13 world junior medals and has twice been the British and Irish schools table tennis champion.

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But Carey said: “I think winning my first senior national title at 17 was my favourite win because I beat someone who I’d always looked up to.”

And having been called up to her third Commonwealth Games and now being Wales’ No.1, Carey has set both high and reasonable expectations for herself and Team Wales. 

She said: “Our goal is to reach the quarter final in team competitions and hope that we can pull out a strong, shock performance! 

“However in singles it’s very tough so I’m just going to take every match as it comes and try to play to my best ability. Hopefully the results will follow.”

As Carey is one of the senior members of the Team Wales group that is heading out to the Gold Coast despite being only 22, she was selected to be a member of the Welsh Athletes Commission. 

This was a group of senior athletes that were part of Team Wales who played a key part in both selecting the kit that the Welsh athletes would wear and actually had a voice in the athletes that were selected for the tournament. 

Carey said about being a member of the Commission: “Being part of the Athletes Commission is such an honour. 

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“Just being on the team is a great feeling but being able to help make some decisions and to try to make the games as perfect as possible for myself and other athletes is special.”

And although the majority of the media attention at the Games will be on the athletes and their performances in their disciplines, going to Australia on its own is a fantastic opportunity and experience. 

And it is one that Carey is looking forward to. She said: “I visited the Gold Coast this summer for the Australian Open and I loved seeing the wild kangaroos and I’m very excited to hold a koala again! 

“Of course after ‘the Beast from the East’ I’m looking forward to a bit of sun too!”