11-year-old spelling bee champ brings home bronze from national competition

·2 min read
11-year-old Austin He said he's already looking forward to next year's spelling bee. (Submitted by Forest He - image credit)
11-year-old Austin He said he's already looking forward to next year's spelling bee. (Submitted by Forest He - image credit)

New Brunswick's 11-year-old spelling whiz is bringing home a trophy, a medal and a cash prize.

Austin He of Quispamsis was the only New Brunswicker to compete in Spelling Bee of Canada in Toronto this weekend, and he's bringing home the bronze.

"It was fun. I liked the actual spelling part, and I didn't realize time went by so fast," he said in an interview from his Toronto hotel room Monday.

Spelling Bee of Canada/YouTube
Spelling Bee of Canada/YouTube

Over the course of the seven-hour competition, Austin correctly spelled the words supersede, spurrier, partita and implication, to name just a few.

And while the five cameras, four judges, and dozens of onlookers did not faze him, it was the word kurta that finally stopped him in his tracks after 11 rounds.

"Totally confused, my mind just went blank," Austin said about the name for a loose, collarless shirt worn in South Asia.

Forest He, Austin's father, said during the first four rounds, the words were chosen from material the contestants had studied. But from Round 5 onward, the words were taken from the Oxford English Dictionary, so the they couldn't possibly know all of them.

"Austin has been working really really hard in the last few weeks," Forest said.

"Wherever he goes he would have an Oxford Dictionary with him."

Submitted by Forest He
Submitted by Forest He

Forest said it was a great learning experience, because Austin was able to see all of the elite spelling bee champions and experience a high-pressure situation.

"Being under the pressure, under the spotlight … We all learn, we all grow from our experience," Forest said.

"As parents, we'll certainly do our best to support him, and we hope he can learn more, grow more ,and have a better luck in the future."

Along with his bronze medal, Austin was awarded is $300 in cash. And while he isn't sure what to do with the money, his father does.

"He will save it," said Forest.

As for Austin, he's "kind of relieved" the competition is over, but is looking forward to the next one.

"I kind of want to do it again next year," he said.

"I know what's going to happen, and I really like it."

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