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13-year-old Indian-American wins National Spelling Bee

Thirteen-year-old Indian-American Arvind Mahankali scripted history by winning this year's Scripps National Spelling Bee as children from the community dominated the prestigious contest for the sixth year in a row, grabbing the top three slots.

13-year-old Indian-American wins National Spelling Bee
Arvind Mahankali sure knows how to cast a 'spell' (Pic - AFP)

Arvind, who is from New York, won the contest by correctly spelling German word 'knaidel', which means a small mass of leavened dough, to win the 86th version of the competition last night.

The bee tested brain power, composure and, for the first time, knowledge of vocabulary. "The words were extremely hard. It means that I am retiring in a good mood," Arvind said immediately after winning the prestigious national championship.

This is the sixth consecutive year that an Indian-American has won the contest, which was watched live by millions of people in the United States.

Arvind is also the first boy to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee since 2008. He will take home USD 30,000 in cash and prizes along with a huge, cup-shaped trophy.

Arvind, the eldest son of an IT consultant father and a physician mother, had placed ninth in 2010, then third in 2011 and 2012. More often than not, it was words from the German language that denied him the championship.

"The German curse has turned into a German blessing," he said after besting eight other finalists in a nail-biting finale to a three-day nationally televised competition that started with 281 contestants from eight nations.

A grade eight student, Arvind loves maths and science and plans to pursue a career as a physicist. A speaker of Telugu and Spanish, Arvind enjoys tennis, basketball and drama, and counts Novak Djokovic and Shaquille O'Neal among his favourite athletes.

Last three contestants were Indian-Americans. Another thirteen-year-old Indian-American boy Pranav Sivakumar of Tower Lakes, Illinois, finished second while the third place was grabbed by Sriram Hathwar from New York.

This time organisers have added an additional computer test for the semifinals, imposed time limits on computer-based spelling and vocabulary tests and added a rule that resulted in automatic elimination for any participant who misspelled a word on stage in the second or third rounds.

About 15 Indian-Americans, including six girls, had made it to the semifinals. 

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