Pint-Sized Phenoms: The Bonus Edition of Extraordinary 9-Year-Olds

Last week it was the teens, but this week it's a group of nine-year-olds who are so special they had to get their own post. Their varied interests show how kids can find a passion and love in many different areas. 1) Quvenzhané Wallis- Wallis is the youngest nominee for Best Actress at the Academy Awards ever. She beats the previous nominee by about four years. 2013 National Board Of Review Awards - Inside Arrivals

What's even more amazing is that she was only 5 when she auditioned for the role in "Beasts of the Southern Wild!"

2) Sophia Lucia- Lucia has been wowing at dance competitions for years, but she's going national now that she's been appearing on Lifetime's Dance Moms. Lucia actually holds the world record for most pirouettes: 54! Don't believe me? Watch this video:

It doesn't seem like she'll remain a regular with the Abby Lee Dance Company-- and frankly, the way things seem to be going there that is for the best. I do hope she manages to squeeze in some studying so that she knows 6*9=54 once she can't turn that many times (Lucia is homeschooling she can focus on dance).

3) MMA fighters- Tim Keown's ESPN The Magazine article on the youth MMA competitive circuit for kids 5 to 15-- known as Pankration-- was a fascinating look at the development of formal competition for kids. I found this to be the most fascinating inside into this world in which, as describe,  a 9-year-old boy can sit upon a 9-year-old girl in competition:

Every Little Leaguer -- and his parents -- wonders if he can make the big leagues. But in youth MMA, the vibe is different. A professional career doesn't seem as distant. The path seems                      

                                                     more direct, the pool of participants far smaller.

4) The Long brothers- All of these championships and records pale in comparison to the achievements-- both athletic and human-- of nine-year-old Conner Long. Conner's younger brother, Cayden, is seven, and he has cerebral palsy. Cayden can't walk or talk, but he does get to compete in triathlons thanks to his brother pushing and pulling him in the water and on land. Both completed the Iron Kids Triathlon this year, and even though they finished last (Conner after all was competing WITH his brother) they won big, being honored as the 2012 SportsKids of the Year by SI Kids. I dare you to watch this video and not be moved:

I can only hope that my Carston grows up to be like Conner and Cayden. They are true phenoms and brothers and I applaud their parents for raising two such phenomenal young men.

Pint-Sized Phenoms: End-of-year Girl Power

As the end of the year approaches we are inundated with people of the year winners and Top 10 lists. There's even an award for "Sports Kid of the Year," awarded by SI Kids.

This year's winner is Noah Flegel, the 14-and-under world champion in wakeboarding.  While the top three finalists were all boys, four girls were part of the top 10 semi-finalists: Nastasya Generalova (11, Rhythmic Gymnastics), Sage Donnelly (11, Kayaking), Lauren Williams (12, Track), and Lynne Wang (10, Swimming).  I found Lynne's story particularly inspiring.  Lynne is missing part of her left arm, but that didn't stop her from qualifying for the 2011 Junior Olympics in the 100-yard butterfly (note that this is for able-bodied swimmers, not those with a disability).

Another inspirational, 11-year-old female athlete is Wakana Ueda.  Last week Wakana completed the Honolulu Marathon.  Her time wasn't impressive (she finished in 14 hours, 3 minutes, and 12 seconds). So why mention her? Well, besides her age, Wakana is blind.  The Japanese youngseter pushed through significant physical discomfort to finish the race-- something I'm not sure I could ever do!

But female athletes aren't the only impressive pint-sized phenoms.  Seventeen-year-old Californian Angela Zhang is an extremely impressive young woman.  Earlier this month Angela won the 2011 Seimens Competition in Math, Science, and Technology, along with $100,000 scholarship.  Her research, on how to eradicate cancer stem cells, could be available as a treatment in 15 to 20 years. Not surprisingly, Angela is also an Intel International Science and Engineering Fair winner (two years in a row, in fact).  It's great to see a young, female scientist excel so early in her scientific "career;" I can only imagine how far she will go with her education and with the right mentorship.

Good luck to all of these pint-sized phenoms in 2012, and beyond!