Pint-Sized Phenoms: Creating and Destroying While Setting Records

For the most part, Guan Tianlang, had a pretty good month. At 14 not only is he the youngest player *ever* to participate in the Masters, but he also was the only amateur to make the cut, earning him additional coverage (which thankfully wasn’t overshadowed by the latest Tiger Woods scandal). While Tianlang did have to deal with a rare slow play penalty, the way he comported himself after earned him many accolades.

Guan Tianging and Tiger Woods at Masters, Don Emmert Getty Images

Sports loves to focus on the “youngest-ever” and “first-ever” monikers, which makes sense given most athletic endeavors rely on statistics, records, and history to fill the space around the action. CNN put together this slideshow, based on Tianlang’s success, which highlights our tendency to spotlight the youngest even if they aren’t always the best (yet).

Chess, considered by many to be the most difficult mental sport, also loves its numbers, rankings, and history. Last month nine-year-old Awonder Liang broke yet another record, becoming the youngest ever chess master in American history. This was his third significant record, as at only 8 the Wisconsin boy was the youngest to defeat an International Master in a standard tournament game, and at 9 he defeated a Grand Master.

Awonder Liang, Post-Cresent photo by Ron Page

Funny to think about this young, sweet face destroying opponents over the chess board, right?

Another sweet face that doesn’t betray the skill level of the child is that of seven-year-old Apoorva Mali. Apoorva’s has been growing her fanbase worldwide after a recording of her performing a magic show in India last year (when she was only 6!) went viral.

Like many prodigies she was exposed to her activity early (in this case her parents are both magicians), but she clearly has a knack, even if she isn’t Houdini quite yet.

Another girl with a special knack for her hobby is Sylvia Todd. Todd is the oldest Pint-Sized Phenom in this edition, but at 11 she’s not even yet a teenager. Last week Todd participated in the White House’s Science Fair where she had a robot paint an Obama doodle for him (it said, “Go STEM”).

Sylvia Todd and Barack Obama, Stephen Crowley The New York Times

Todd is more well known for her YouTube science show, “Sylvia’s Super-Awesome Maker Show;” her 19 episodes have been seen by over 1.5 million already.  In her recent New York Times profile she is quoted as saying, “Ever since I was really young I liked destroying stuff. I’ve always been interested in making and doing things hands-on.”

I suspect on some level all of these pint-sized phenoms enjoy “destroying” an opponent, an object, expectations– or those records. And, in the process, they are really creating.

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