Zaila Avant-garde: Three-time Guinness World Record holder makes history at national spelling bee [watch]

Zaila Avant-garde, a fourteen-year-old from New Orleans, Louisiana in the United States made history when she won the 93rd annual Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday, 8 July.


Zaila Avant-garde won the competition by spelling the word “murraya”, which is a type of tropical tree, correctly in Orlando, Florida on Thursday.

The teenager became the first African-American to win the spelling bee but breaking records is something she is quite accustomed to – she’s also a basketball prodigy who dreams of playing professionally the WNBA one day and holds three Guinness world records for dribbling, juggling and bouncing multiple balls simultaneously.

Zaila was awarded a cash prize of $50 000 (R712 100) and said she hoped her victory would inspire other young African-Americans, according to AFP. The teenager described spelling as a side hobby – which she practises for seven hours per day – and said she has only taken part in competitive spelling for two years.

“I’m hoping that in a view years I’ll see a whole lot more African American females and males too doing well in the Scripps Spelling Bee because it’s kind of sad how there’s like a great lack of those people,” she said to ABC’s Good Morning America.

Zaila is only the second black winner in nearly a century of the competition. Jody-Anne Maxwell, from Jamaica, won the competition in 1998, according to The Guardian.

Former United States President Barack Obama was one of many that congratulated Avant-garde on her victory.

“Three Guinness World Records and now the national spelling bee champ! Congrats Zaila – your hard work is paying off,” said Obama. “We’re all proud of you.”

Zaila’s father changed her surname from Heard to Avant-garde as a homage to the jazz legend John Coltrane, according to The New York Times.

Additional reporting by AFP.



Presh JM Reporter

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