NEW YORK: It looks like Indian American kids now own the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
On Thursday night here, another Indian American whiz kid Arvind Mahankali won the 86th Scripps National Spelling Bee by spelling `knaidel’ correctly. Knaidel is a German-Yiddish word for small dumpling.
It is the sixth consecutive year that an Indian American has won the national spelling title.
Not only this. All the top positions in this year’s spelling competition went to Indian American students.
Pranav Sivakumar, 13, from Tower Lakes (Illinois), finished second; Sriram Hathwar, 13, from Painted Post (New York) third; and Amber Born, 14, from Marblehead (Massachusetts) fourth.
The winner Arvind Mahankali, whose family comes from Hyderabad, carries home a cash award of $30,000 and a huge cup-shaped trophy.
“I hope I made you proud, and I couldn’t have done this without your support,’’ Arvind said modestly after winning the competition.
It was a sweet dream come true for the 13-year-old boy from Bayside Hills in New York as he had finished third in this competition during the last two years.
Since he had lost the last two competitions because of tough German words – Schwannoma (tumor of the nerve sheath) in 2012, and jugendstil (artistic style) in 2011 – Arvind said,“I thought, the German curse has turned into a German blessing.’’
Dressed in a white polo shirt, the Indian American genius wearing wire-rimmed glasses vied with 11 other finalists – reduced from 42 semi-finalists – for the title.
But in the end after two hours of competition that was televised nationally, Arvind outsmarted others to lift the crown by spelling knaidel correctly.
The crowd erupted with cheers and confetti rained down as Arvind was announced the winner.
Arvind’s brother Srinath, 9, who was in the audience along with his parents Srinivas and Bhavani said, “Next year I want to be in this spelling bee.’’
It looked like the victory, which came to him after 16 gruelling rounds, had not sunk in as Arvind said, ““Maybe I wlll be excited tomorrow morning after I realize this has happened.’’
The Indian American said he would save the money for his college education as he wants to become a physicist.
With Arvind’s victory on Thursday night, Indian American students have now won the spelling crown for the sixth consecutive year. In fact, they have won the 11 out the 15 titles since 1999 when Nupur Lala became the first Indian American to capture the title.