Table tennis player, 10, turning heads in Halifax
Edward Guo of Edmonton dances around his teammate and coach with a red table tennis paddle in hand, hopping up and down and swinging his skinny legs from side to side.
He's about to face off at the Canada Winter Games against an opponent from Manitoba — an opponent who towers over his tiny four-foot-nine, 88-pound frame.
Only 10 years of age, Eddie — as he prefers to be called — is one of the youngest competitors at the Games in Halifax.
"It's very exciting," says Guo, a shy smile spreading across his face. "I get to meet new people and they're all older than me. I like to see their faces when they're surprised.
"That makes me feel happy 'cause, like, they're nervous of a person younger than them."
The Grade 5 student, who won't turn 11 until October, began playing table tennis about 3 ½ years ago. He devotes about two hours each day to his sport — a commitment he admits can get a little annoying at times.
But his dedication has led him to one of three male spots on Alberta's table tennis team.
His 16-year-old teammate, Calvin Chong, says opponents from other provinces might wonder why Alberta is "bringing a kid like this to a tournament." But he says the joke is on them.
"They're probably nervous when [Eddie] gets some points from them because he's not a bad player. He can compete with them," says Chong.
On this day, however, Guo's 15-year-old opponent is having the better game. At one point, he looks to the ceiling, puffs up his cheeks and lets out a little sigh before serving again.
When Manitoba comes out on top at the end of the game, Chong gives his young teammate a reassuring pat on the head.
"He's always taking the game seriously. He's active, positive and he tries hard, no matter how good his opponents are," says Chong, a Grade 10 student from Calgary.
"He can grow up to be a really good player. He's always playing with other older players and stronger players so I think he improves a lot."
Most recently, Guo won two silver medals and helped Alberta to a team gold at the Canadian junior championships in Calgary. He is also the second-ranked under-11 player in Canada.
He says he hopes to play at international competitions in the future. Maybe even the Olympics.
"I have to practise, make new friends and gain experience," Guo says of his future plan.
For now, however, his goals are more modest.
Just moments after his "depressing" loss, a rejuvenated Guo is content just thinking about the other athletes he's met since arriving in Halifax.
"It's very exciting with all these people here," he says. "I can get new friends."