Meet the History-Making Scripps Spelling Bee Winner, Who Also Has Impressive Basketball Skills
The newly crowned 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee winner, Zaila Avant-garde, holds three Guinness World Records for her ability to dribble multiple basketballs at a time
Zaila Avant-garde has entered the world stage!
On Thursday, the 14-year-old eighth-grader from Harvey, Louisiana, clinched victory at the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee, correctly spelling "Murraya" — a genus of flowering plants — during the live finals at Walt Disney World's ESPN Wide World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
Zaila became the first Black American student to be crowned the champion in the bee's nearly century-long history, as well as the first winner from Louisiana. (Her sponsor was the New Orleans Chapter of the Links.)
The only Black winner before Zaila was Jody-Anne Maxwell, who took home the glory in 1998 and represented Jamaica, according to CNN.
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Alongside her affinity for spelling, the teen is also a basketball prodigy who has impressive basketball-juggling skills.
In a video posted in May from IJA Jugglers, Zaila is first seen effortlessly juggling numerous basketballs before she rides a unicycle and continues to juggle in another. In one other scene, she is shown balancing herself on two basketballs as she expertly juggles more before her.
Her records include most balls juggled in one minute with four basketballs, most dribbles in 30 seconds with four basketballs and most basketballs dribbled by one person simultaneously, which she can do with six.
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PEOPLE chatted with Zaila after her exciting win, when the teen said she wants to continue on her athletic journey and go to Harvard University "as a basketball player and student," as she believes it's "a good way to open doors to maybe being an NBA basketball coach" one day.
But her passions don't stop there. "I like working with NASA and doing gene editing. I have a lot of different things I'm interested in," she added.
Following her win, Zaila said her plans at Walt Disney World are to "have fun," noting to PEOPLE, "[I want to do] everything. We don't have time to do everything, but I'm gonna eat a lot."
And looking ahead after her stunning feat, the teen added, "I want to inspire everybody, especially African American girls ... I'm hoping that inspires a lot of African girls everywhere to really look into this type of thing."