Nine of the 11 finalists for this year’s US Spelling Bee contest are Indian-Americans, reflecting the dominance young kids from the small ethnic community have had on this prestigious and high-pressure endurance test for more than a decade now.
The 11 spellers, of which nine are Indian-Americans, will compete for the champion title during the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee Finals on July 8, a statement said on Monday.
During the in-person finals, the Bee will have the option of activating a spell-off if needed. The spell-off would be activated in the closing minutes of the competition if a champion has not yet been declared in a traditional, one-person, one-word round, it said.
“We are honoured to introduce our 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee Finalists. Round after round, this group of spellers proved their mettle, and we look forward to seeing them show off their knowledge and hard work as they square off against the dictionary on the national stage,” said Dr J Michael Durnil, executive director of the Bee.
“Congratulations to all of this year’s 209 national qualifiers – they’ve persevered over a year that has been challenging in many ways, and our team is proud to have witnessed their journey,” he said.
The National Bee is a high-profile, high-pressure endurance test as much as a nerd spelling match and spellers spend months preparing for it.
The final rounds of this year’s contest will be hosted in person at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida, and will be broadcast live in prime time on ESPN2.
The 11 finalists are Roy Seligman, 12, from Nassau, The Bahamas; Bhavana Madini, 13, from New York; Sreethan Gajula, 14, from Charlotte, North Carolina; Ashrita Gandhari, 14, from Leesburg, Virginia; Avani Joshi, 13, from Illinois; Zaila Avant-garde, 14, from New Orleans; Vivinsha Veduru, 10, from Texas; Dhroov Bharatia, 12, from Dallas; Vihaan Sibal, 12, from Texas; Akshainie Kamma, 13, from Texas and Chaitra Thummala, 12, from San Francisco.
Over the past 20 years, Indian-Americans have been dominating the Spelling Bee contest even though they comprise only about 1 per cent of the US population.
The Bee was cancelled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. But there were eight co-champions in 2019, seven of whom were Indian-Americans, bringing the total number of Indian-American champions since 1999 to 26.