11-year-old Scripps National Spelling Bee co-champion Nihar Janga stuns not just the world, his family as well

His parents say their goal for this year was him reaching the finals.

AB Wire

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD: The parents of the newly crowned Scripps National Spelling Bee co-champion Nihar Janga did not expect their son to win the title. Given their son’s age — in the 88-year history of the venerable competition, nobody had won the title at 11 — and considering the fact that it was the fifth-grader’s first Bee, the family’s goal was for him to reach the finals.

So it was not just the world that Janga stunned on Thursday night, he surprised his mom, dad and sister as well by finishing joint first at the 89th Scripps National Spelling Bee.

“We never expected it—it was a surprise to us,” Sushma Janga told The American Bazaar moments after the Texan won the Bee, along with 13-year-old Jairam Hathwar from New York. “We didn’t expect him to get this far,” dad Narayana Junga, a software engineer with Oracle, echoed his wife.

Sushma said her son was “passionate” about the Bee and “he practiced a lot.”

Narayana Janga said Nihar was “a bit nervous” on the first day but he was more relaxed during the finals, “which was his goal for this year.”

“He learns everything about a word when he sees a word,” Janga said.

Both the parents said Nihar’s inspiration for taking up Spelling Bee was his elder sister Navya, a tenth grader, who had competed at the school level.

Navya told the Bazaar that she tutored her brother. “We both read a lot, so that helped a lot,” she said.

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