Students who come into the University of Toronto with an athletic scholarship dream of becoming professional athletes. This dream can certainly become reality for UTM’s Anqi Luo, who spent a large part of her summer competing in this summer’s Pan Am Games in Toronto.

Luo, who is joining the Erindale community as a first-year commerce student, is ranked as the best U21 and second-best overall women’s table tennis player in the country. Luo’s talent was shown during the summer when Canada won the bronze for the women’s table tennis team.

“It felt amazing to compete in my hometown and to perform in front of all my friends and family,” Luo says about playing in Toronto. “It really gave an extra boost and confidence to my game.”

Luo also competed in the singles tournament, where she won her first four out of five matches, losing only in the quarterfinals to the eventual silver medallist. “I am delighted with my performance and I have successfully achieved my goal of medalling in the Pan Am Games,” she says.

Despite her busy athletic life, Luo still recognizes the importance of her education and is excited for her first year at UTM. “As a first-year student, I am very curious about the university life,” she says. “I look forward to meeting new people as well as discovering what specific subjects and jobs that I would be interested to pursue in the future.”

The first year for any university student is usually a year full of challenges, with vastly higher expectations on students compared to when they were in high school. However, a hectic schedule is nothing new for Luo. As a professional athlete, she practiced regularly and opted to complete her high school diploma in five years as a part-time student to accommodate her training and competition schedules.

“I trained almost every day, and I had to take my absence from school due to international tournaments every month,” she explains.

With such an intense schedule, it should be even harder to continue an athletic career, but Luo knows what she is up against and is excited about the challenge. “Catching up with the schoolwork is going to be tough,” she admits. “In university, no one will be chasing after [me] to make sure [I] have everything in place, so it is really about the self-initiative and being independent.”

Luo continues to be humble. Playing a sport at the international level is a great feat at any age, let alone for a 19-year-old, but she appreciates all of the opportunities she is presented with.

“I am so glad to have the opportunity of experiencing an interesting and unique life that table tennis has brought me,” she says. She is also very proud to play for Canada. “My favourite part of being a professional athlete is having the honour of representing my country on an international stage.”

With so much determination and ambition, it can be expected that Anqi Luo will go far, whether she chooses to continue table tennis or follow some other dream. However, every dream must start somewhere, and for Luo, that somewhere happens to be UTM. Although the first year is full of changes, she plans to stay true to herself and participate in table tennis at UTM.

“I am working on getting a table tennis club started at UTM, and I would like to shout out to all my peers at UTM to stay tuned for any announcements and hopefully they will have a chance to check it out,” she says. Believe in the hype around Anqi Luo because when you tune into the 2020 Olympics, you may see her represent her country on the biggest stage in the world.