Picture by David Beatson

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

'I'm an ordinary girl who believed in her dream'

SYDNEY -- A 16-year-old Australian who braved seven months of solitude to sail around the world ended her 23,000-mile journey at a dock outside the Sydney Opera House on Saturday.

Jessica Watson became the youngest person to sail around the globe solo, nonstop and unassisted when she cruised into Sydney Harbor in her pink, 34-foot yacht. She maneuvered her boat through raging storms, 40-foot waves and seven knockdowns.

"Amazingly, I just enjoyed it much, much more than I ever thought I would and handled the challenges better than I thought," she said. "You don't actually have a choice -- you're in the middle of a storm, you're being knocked down -- you can't fall apart."

Now, she said, she's eager to learn how to drive a car.

"You will pass your driving test with flying colors," said Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who greeted her along with a crowd of thousands.

He called her "Australia's newest hero," but she disagreed. "I don't consider myself a hero," she said. "I'm an ordinary girl who believed in her dream."

"People don't think you're capable of these things -- they don't realize what young people, what 16-year-olds and girls are capable of," Jessica told the crowd. "It's amazing, when you take away those expectations, what you can do."

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