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Beating All Odds 12 Year Old Indian-American Rishi Nair Became Champ of this year’s National Geographic Bee


Twelve-year-old Rishi Nair showed his global knowledge at Wednesday’s finals of the 2016 National Geographic Bee.The road to the championship was long. After answering hundreds of questions, this year’s final 10 faced the cameras and turned the table on bee moderator, Mo Rocca.

Under the bright lights of the main stage, the top 10 got a chance to showcase their smarts and their personalities.Twelve-year-old Rishi Nair from Florida revealed an unusual hero.

This is the fifth consecutive year that an Indian American has won the prestigious national tournament. Last year Karan Menon had won the competition.


Nair, whose parents hail from Kerala, is the second Florida student to win the National Geographic Bee. In 2010, eighth-grader Aadith Moorthy of Palm Harbor was the national champion. 

In the nail-biting, seven-question final round between Rishi and Saketh, Rishi took the lead.The final question, which clinched the win for Rishi, was: “A new marine sanctuary will protect sharks and other wildlife around Isla Wolf in which archipelago in the Pacific Ocean?” Answer: “Galápagos Islands.”

After soaking in his victory, Rishi was quick to thank another role model.

“I’d like to thank my mom for everything that she did ever since I was born. She’s a really great lady. I love you, mom!” Rishi said.

Rishi’s mother, Geetha, said her son has sacrificed a lot.

“I have to tell you he did not celebrate his birthday for the past two years, because it was just before the bee,” she said.

But the 2016 champ said it’s all been worth it.

“Do you like being famous?” Reid asked.

“Yeah, I do, because if it weren’t for that, then like I wouldn’t have the motivation to achieve more things in life,” Rishi said.

In addition to the scholarship money of $50,000, this year’s champion gets an eight-day Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic adventure aboard the National Geographic Sea Lion to the northernmost U.S. state where he’ll explore fjords, glaciers and old-growth rain forests.

Watch the interview with Rishi Nair

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Written by Shiva Sai Teja

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