25 August 2009

13-year old girls...

... are different from the way they were when I was 13 years old. This morning I heard a report on BBC radio about a controversy currently brewing in the Netherlands regarding whether 13-year-old Laura Decker should be permitted to sail around the world - alone.

Her parents support her in this decision, which would break the world record for the youngest person to accomplish such a feat (current record by a 17-year-old). She would need to miss two years of school, and she would sail without any support vessels beside/behind her. The Dutch public is reportedly split on this issue; many support her, while others consider it too dangerous and equivalent to child neglect.

TYWKIWDBI won't take any stand on this girl's situation, but the story reminded me of an item I read in my high school's alumni bulletin, regarding a young girl whom I'll just identify with initials here: "C--- K--- '15... won the 2009... Skating Competition. In her long program, K--- successfully landed seven double jumps, including a double-lutz, double-toe loop combination jump."

If she's in the class of 2015, she would also be 12-13 years old. For comparison, Dorothy Hamill and Peggy Fleming won Olympic figure skating gold medals without doing any double jumps. Now a 13-year-old does seven double jumps for just a regional competition. I'm sure the analogy could be extended to many other sports.

Update: The Dutch girl is now "under state care" for two months while an evaluation is underway, which prevents her from beginning the voyage.


  1. It's one thing to have adults competent to make their own choices spurn each other on in the spirit of competition. It's quite another to have a child, not considered old enough to even vote, have to feel the pressure (even if they are compliant) of such public-driven judgments. They have no context as to what sacrifices they are truly making regarding their physical and emotional well-being. At the very least for safety, adult supervision should be required.

  2. I note the trip will be "sponsored," so perhaps the parents will rake in some Euros for endorsements and interviews and a book and etc etc.

    Meanwhile the girl is at risk for rape and murder by pirates.


  3. This is taking the concept of free-range children a bit too far. My oldest at that age, when there was a rapist in the area, insisted she could handle any man. She was 5'3 and weighed about 100 pounds.

  4. i agree that no 13 year old girl should sail around the world alone. that's parental negligence to say the least. if you read the stories of people sailing around the world, there is too much to handle physically, not to mention emotionally.

    however, i am sorry you have the Dorothy Hammil and Peggy Fleming stat a wrong. They both did double axels and all the other double jumps in their Olympic performances.

    American women (and girl) figure skaters have always been precocious. Elaine Zayam was doing triple toes at 12 in the late 70s, and Janet Lynn was landing triple salchow at 12 (in the late 60s).

  5. Re Peggy Fleming at the 1968 Olympics - "She easily won all the first-place votes despite a shaky free-skating program in which she turned a double axel into a single and double-footed the landing of an incomplete double lutz."

    She might have done double axels later in life, but not for her Olympic gold. You can also see it on YouTube.


  6. Ice skaters are right there where their Moms can see them. No way I'd let my 13-year-old travel that far without supervision, even on land.

  7. AMSTERDAM -- Laura Dekker, the 13-year-old girl who wants to sail solo around the world, stays for two months under supervision That the court decided Friday.
    The 13-year-old Laura Dekker is in the center of attention for its plan to sail solo around the world.Laura on her own want to make a solo sailing trip around the world Her parents give her permission, but the child is suspended temporarily from parental authority. Laura tries to settle in New Zealand to avoid any action here.

    The Children's Commissioner in New Zealand warned Friday that they will have problems there. "Laura can now look forward to a similar treatment by the child protection authorities in the Netherlands."


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