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This 11-Year-Old Has A Black Belt In Taekwondo And A Ticket To The Scripps National Spelling Bee

This 11-Year-Old Has A Black Belt In Taekwondo And A Ticket To The Scripps National Spelling Bee
Posted at 5:30 AM, May 27, 2022

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The preliminaries of the 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee will begin on May 31. The event has been a part of American culture since 1925 and has become iconic in recent decades, even being featured in films like 2002’s “Spellbound,” 2005’s “Bee Season,” 2006’s “Akeelah and the Bee” as well as recently being the topic of the 2020 Netflix documentary “Spelling the Dream.”

This year, Avinav Prem Anand is eager to join the competition. The 11-year-old Ohioan will be competing against 233 other finalists from across America and the globe. Though he is only in fifth grade, Avinav is no stranger to competing on an international stage.

An avid lover of taekwando, Avinav won six gold medals at the 2021 Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Junior Olympics in Houston. He then went on to win five golds and two silvers at the AAU Fall Nationals. He has also won gold medals in virtual international competitions in Denmark, the Philippines, South Korea and the United Kingdom.

Priya Darshini

But, to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Avinav will need more than the skills that have earned him a black belt. The young student from Columbus has been prepping diligently in the hopes of making it to the finals and getting to earn his spot in Bee history. His parents say that his experience training for taekwando competitions will help him to make this dream come true.

“As parents, we always make sure Avinav is comfortable with what he is doing … [The Spelling Bee] is very competitive and nerve-wracking but Avinav doesn’t feel nervous,” his mom, Priya, tells Simplemost. “This is because he has faced similar situations multiple times and has learned to handle it. During taekwondo tournaments, he has to have the highest level of concentration and be precise. He knows that at least three judges and hundreds of spectators are watching him, Even the slightest wobble might put him out of the tournament. He is trained to perform under pressure and he applies the same to [the Bee].”

For his part, Avinav says that his motto is: “Practice like it is the competition and when in competition feel like you are in practice.”

Priya Darshini

No doubt Avinav’s calm and focused demeanor came in handy during regional qualifiers when he was faced with the word: “Etagere” (pronounced ā-ˌtä-ˈzher). This is a word that most adults would never be able to spell from that pronunciation, let alone an 11-year-old!

Avinav opted to approach the word with finesse, asking for details about the word and breaking it down. (An etagere is a French-style piece of furniture that is most similar to a bookcase). With a little thought, Avinav spelled the word correctly and went on to become a 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee finalist.

Priya says that her son practices spelling daily, even using trips to the grocery store to help hone his skills, such as by checking out items in the international aisle or pharmaceutical aisle and studying words he hasn’t seen before. Like a true child of the online age, Avinav also relies on apps and websites to help him learn new words and hone his spelling, including Merriam-Webster Unabridged.

“Avinav also has fun with the ‘Scratch & Play Scripps National Spelling Bee‘ book,” she said.

Avinav Anand, 11, is one of the finalists in the 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Avinav Prem Anand

How To Watch The 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee

In its 94th year, the Scripps National Spelling Bee will be televised live on ION and Bounce, with LeVar Burton serving as the host. Both networks are available to cable, streaming and over-the-air television viewers free of charge (enter your ZIP code on the Bee’s website to find ION in your area). The competition will also be live-streamed on the Bee’s website. The televised semifinals will air on June 1, and the finals will air live on June 2. The events will be held near Washington, D.C.

For more information about the Scripps National Spelling Bee, visit

Scripps National Spelling Bee 2022 graphic
Scripps National Spelling Bee

Simplemost and the Scripps National Spelling Bee share a parent company, The EW Scripps Company.

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