Spelling Bee Champ Zaila Avant-garde Is Sports Illustrated’s 2021 SportsKid

In Summary

Usually celebrating athleticism, the publication chose the 14-year-old Black girl to recognize her intellectual talent as well as her basketball abilities.

Zaila Avant-garde has been selected as Sports Illustrated’s 2021 SportsKid after winning the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee competition, according to Sports Illustrated.   

Avant-garde competed after correctly spelling “murraya,” a type of tree. She did a celebratory spin and jumped in the air while being showered in confetti. 

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Usually celebrating athleticism, the publication chose the 14-year-old Black girl to recognize her intellectual talent as well as her basketball abilities. 

“Spelling it just a thing I do,” Zaila said. “My primary focus is basketball.” 

Aside from being a spelling bee champion, Zaila is a point guard who garnered three Guinness World Records for dribbling multiple basketballs simultaneously. In July, Zaila set a record when she became the first Black winner from the U.S. to win the spelling bee in 93 editions of the competition.  

“Words are fun,” Zaila said. “There are stories behind these words that make them super fun. It takes a lot of work to be successful, but it’s really fun work.” 

After winning the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee, Avant-garde was awarded a full scholarship to Louisiana State University but the teenager had previously told reporters she wants to play basketball at Harvard University.  

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