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33 Fun Teen Facts In Honor Of The Youth Olympic Games

By Lisa Costantini | Aug. 14, 2014, 10:29 a.m. (ET)

In only a matter of days, athletes from the age of 15-18 will descend upon Nanjing, China, to compete in the second Youth Olympic Games. And just in case watching talented athletes perform amazing feats doesn’t make you feel lazy enough, here are 33 teens who accomplished more before graduating college than most of us do in our entire lives. You’re welcome.

1. While still in high school at only 17 years old, pro basketball player (and U.S. Olympian!) Kobe Bryant decided to go directly into the NBA, getting signed with the Los Angeles Lakers. Because he was underage at the time of the draft, his parents had to cosign his contract.

2. The idea for the comic Superman was invented by two teens, Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, while still in high school.

3. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps became the youngest man to ever set a swimming world record when he swam the 200-meter butterfly at 15 years old.

4. As a 14-year-old, Philo Farnsworth drew a sketch of what would later become the world’s first television.

5. At the age of 15, figure skater Tara Lipinski won the ladies’ singles Olympic gold medal in figure skating in Nagano, Japan, in 1998 to become the youngest Olympic gold medalist in an individual event.

6. In 1984, Roxana Zal was 14 when she won an Emmy for her performance in the TV movie “Something About Amelia,” becoming the youngest actor ever to win a primetime Emmy.

7. In his parents’ garage — and with the help of his gymnastics coach — 16-year-old George Nissen built the first trampoline.

8. David was a young 15 when he defeated the giant Goliath by slaying him during battle.

9. At 15 at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, gymnast Nadia Comaneci became the first female gymnast to be awarded a perfect score of 10 in an Olympic gymnastics event.

10. Two people who had a lot to do with the early days of hip-hop were 17-year-old Clive Campbell and a 12-year-old Grand Wizard Theodore, who claimed that he came up with scratching after his mom yelled at him to turn down his music and he pushed on the record to try to quiet it.

11. At only 19 years old, tennis player Pete Sampras won his first Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open.

12. The inventor of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, was only 19 years old when he came up with the idea in college.

13. At 16, hockey great Wayne Gretzky won the Ontario Hockey League’s Rookie of the Year award — as well as Most Sportsmanlike award.

14. The well-known inventor Alexander Graham Bell developed the telephone at 18 years old.

15. Figure skater Sarah Hughes won gold at 16 years old — the only American woman to have won the title without having ever won a world or U.S. senior national title.

16. It was a 15-year-old Canadian boy who got tired of being snowed in all the time and came up with the idea for a snowmobile by combining a car with a bulldozer.

17. The youngest player to score in World Cup history was Brazilian soccer legend Pele at 17 years old.

18. Louis Braille invented the system of reading and writing for the blind/visually impaired — also known as Braille — at 15.

19. Two days before turning 15, tennis player Serena Williams turned pro.

20. When she was 14 years old, country singer Leann Rimes became the youngest Grammy winner to date when she won Best New Artist and Best Female Country Vocal Performance in 1997.

21. George Westinghouse was only 19 when he applied for a patent for his invention of the rotary steam engine.

22. By the age of 15 (and still attending high school), golfer Tiger Woods became the youngest ever U.S. junior amateur champion. He held that record for 19 years.

23. Chess prodigy Bobby Fischer received the highest title a chess player can attain (aka grandmaster) by age 15.

24. At 15 years old — and a high school sophomore — now basketball legend Michael Jordan tried out for the varsity team and was deemed too short to make the team. We all know how that story ended!

25. As the United States was growing and new states were being added, the look of the American flag was constantly changing. So once the U.S. grew to 50 states, Congress asked for ideas on a design that would hold all those stars. It was a 17-year-old high school boy named Robert Heft who designed the winning choice — the same flag he designed for a school project and his teacher gave him a B-.

26. With the help of skateboarding legend Tony Hawk, a young Shaun White turned pro in skateboarding at the age of 17.

27. The youngest person to ever be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize is education activist Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan when she was nominated last year at 16 years old.

28. Evan Strong was 17 years old and an up-and-coming skateboarder when he was hit by a speeding car on his motorcycle and had to have his left leg amputated. Three years later he decided to try snowboarding for the first time and now has an Paralympic gold medal to show for his perseverance.

29. When Thomas Adams had no luck selling the sap from a tree found in Central America as a substitute for rubber, his two teenage sons got the idea of turning it into a chewing product — hence inventing chewing gum.

30. Now one of the world’s wealthiest people in the world, Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft at 19-years-young.

31. When he was only 16 years old, renowned artist Pablo Picasso won a gold medal at a famous art exhibition for his painting, “Science and Charity.”

32. If your dad is a tax collector you might have been the one who got the idea for this next helpful invention. Blaise Pascal was 19 when he created the wooden box that would eventually be what we know today as the calculator.

33. A 15-year-old Sam Colt first started playing with explosives to impress people at school, but a couple of years later his love for making things go boom was how he came up with the design for the first gun.


Related Athletes

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Kobe Bryant

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Michael Phelps

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Shaun White

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Evan Strong

US Paralympics
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Serena Williams