Zaila Avant-garde: Teenager makes history at US spelling bee

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Scripps National Spelling Bee in Orlando, Florida, 2021

A teenage basketball prodigy has become the first African American to win the US Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Zaila Avant-garde, a 14-year-old from New Orleans, Louisiana, cruised to victory with the word “murraya”, a type of tropical tree.

To get to that point she had to spell out “querimonious” and “solidungulate”.

Despite practising for up to seven hours a day, she describes spelling as a side hobby – Zaila’s main focus is on becoming a basketball pro.

She already holds three world records for dribbling multiple balls at once, and has appeared in an advertisement with the NBA megastar Stephen Curry.

Zaila saw off a field of 11 finalists on Thursday to win the title and bagged a first-place prize of $50,000 (£36,000) at the event in Orlando, Florida.

In the final round, she beat 12-year-old Chaitra Thummala of Frisco, Texas.

It was the first time since 2008 that at least one champion or co-champion of the Scripps National Spelling Bee was not of South Asian descent, the Associated Press news agency reports.

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