Akshita Balaji, 14, won her first spelling bee at age six while visiting family in India.
At the time, her father, Balaji Kannan, says while he and her mother were impressed, they had no idea what the future would hold for Akshita.
But on Sunday night, (June 27), their daughter will compete on live TV as a semifinalist in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. “I mean we thought ok, she won a competition, we moved on and had no idea that she could make it big,” he said. Akshita is one of 30 students from across the country who will go head-to-head, virtually, in the annual competition, set to air on ESPN platforms at 7 p.m. EST.. After her first victory in India, Akshita went on to win her third grade class spelling bee at McNair Elementary School in Herndon. She said she went over classroom spelling prep sheets at the time, thought she’d give it a go and if she won, surprise her parents with the class honor. In fourth grade, she again won the class spelling bee and this time won the entire elementary school’s competition, her father said. “It was around then that we said, oh this is something she is doing consistently and enjoying it — without much preparation,” Kannan said. “So we started working with her on the dictionary.”