Washington: Zaila Avant-garde, a 14-year-old basketball prodigy, has won the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee, becoming the first African American contestant to win in 93 editions of the prestigious competition.
Indian-Americans, who have been dominating the National Spelling Bee for years, had to be satisfied with the 2nd and 3rd positions. Chaitra Thummala, a 12-year-old from San Francisco and Bhavana Madini, 13, from New York won the second and third place at the keenly-fought competition, which was attended by US First Lady Jill Biden.
Avant-garde correctly spelt "Murraya"- a genus of tropical Asiatic and Australian trees having pinnate leaves and flowers to win the competition and USD 50,000 prize money on Thursday.
"It was the smile and twirls for us! After tying for 370th place in 2019, #Speller133 Zaila Avant-garde wins the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee. Congrats to all of our spellers. We're proud of everyone's poise and courage in facing the dictionary. #SpellingBee #TheBeeIsBack," Scripps National Spelling Bee tweeted after the competition, which was not held last year due to the raging COVID-19 pandemic.
The 8th-grader also became the first Louisiana resident and the first African-American to win the title in the competition's 93-year history. The only Black winner before was Jody-Anne Maxwell, representing Jamaica in 1998, CNN reported. A basketball prodigy, Avant-garde holds three Guinness World Records for her ability to dribble multiple basketballs at a time.
She hopes to one day play in the Women's National Basketball Association.
Jill Biden congratulated Avant-garde on her historic win. "Congratulations Zaila!!!", she tweeted.