9 Of 11 US Spelling Bee Finalists Are Of Indian Origin

Nine Indian American kids proficiently advanced through all virtual rounds, while only two American kids made it to the US Spelling Bee annual contest. The 11 spellers will compete for the champion title during the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee Finals on July 8.

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. The Indian American children made it to the 2021 Finalists after advancing the tough three levels of competition hosted virtually: The Preliminaries on June 12, the Quarterfinals on June 15, and the Semifinals on June 27. The national finalists, aged 9 to 15, come from at least 50 US states and the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and Department of Defense Schools in Europe, according to US broadcasters.

As many as 209 spellers competed on a national level, of those the 9 Indian American children qualified for semifinals held on June 27 Sunday from 7 to 11 pm on ESPN America for the championship trophy.  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 honored 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; BhavanaMadini, 13, from New York; SreethanGajula, 14, from Charlotte, North Carolina; Ashrita Gandhari, 14, from Leesburg, Virginia; Avani Joshi, 13, from Illinois; Zaila Avant-garde, 14, from New Orleans; VivinshaVeduru, 10, from Texas; DhroovBharatia, 12, from Dallas; Vihaan Sibal, 12, from Texas; AkshainieKamma, 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.

In 2016, the Scripps National Spelling Bee was won by Indian American kids, NiharJanga, aged 11, from Texas, and JairamHathwar, aged 13, from New York. In 2017, the national spelling bee finals were bagged by AksharaPaimagam of Randolph Middle School of Indian origin. Meanwhile, the 2015 annual spelling bee contest was won by Gokul Venkatachalam and Vanya Shivashankar, both Indian American students, while Vanya’s older sister Kavya has won the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2009.

The other Indian kids to win the popular contest are AnsunSujoe and SriramHathwar in the year 2014, Arvind Mahankali in 2013, SnigdhaNandipati in 2012, Sukanya Roy in 2011 and AnamikaVeeramani in 2010. The Indian American Children have been qualifying for the US national spelling bee contest leaving their American friends behind with chances of more than 80 percent of them even winning, for the past several years. Interestingly, these Indian origin children comprise less than 1% of the total American school’s population. The Bee was cancelled in 2020 due to the coronaviruspandemic. 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.

The show will also be broadcast LIVE prime time on ESPN2 at 8 pm ET. Those with no cable subscription can watch it on FuboTV, or Hulu streaming service, and Sling. One could also tune into the updates on the spellers’ official Instagram, or Twitter handle.

List of the 11 finalists for the  US Spelling Bee contest 2021:

  1. Roy Seligman, 12, from Nassau, The Bahamas
  2. BhavanaMadini, 13, from New York
  3. SreethanGajula, 14, from Charlotte, North Carolina
  4. Ashrita Gandhari, 14, from Leesburg, Virginia
  5. Avani Joshi, 13, from Illinois
  6. Zaila Avant-garde, 14, from New Orleans
  7. VivinshaVeduru, 10, from Texas
  8. DhroovBharatia, 12, from Dallas
  9. Vihaan Sibal, 12, from Texas
  10. AkshainieKamma, 13, from Texas

Chaitra Thummala, 12, from San Francisco

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