Indo-American wins National Spelling Bee  

WASHINGTON, June 2, 2000 - Indo-American teenager George Abraham Thampy of Maryland Heights, Mo., became champion of the 73rd Annual Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee, winning over 247 other spellers.

George, 12, correctly spelled "demarche" and 14 other words to win the Bee in hard-fought final rounds Thursday afternoon. He survived tough competition from Sean Conley of Newark, Calif., and third-place finisher Alison Miller of Niskayuna, N.Y. The three spellers went several rounds without missing a word before Alison misspelled "venire" and Sean stumbled on "apotropaic" to give George his chance to win.

George’s victory comes on the heels of his strong showing in the Geography Bee last Wednesday, where he won a $15,000 college scholarship for placing second. For winning the Spelling Bee, he will receive $10,000 cash, a set of encyclopedias, and a lifetime of notoriety. "My main goal wasn’t the cash prizes or the trophies," he said. "It was the words. If I’d gone out in the first round or the fourth round, I’d still be happy as long as I learned just one new word."

This was George’s third trip to the National Bee, and he’s been one of the top finishers each time, tying for fourth place in 1998 and third place in 1999. "I thank Jesus that he let me do it today instead of having to come back next year and spend the whole year studying spelling," he said. "This year I spent as much time as I had. Whenever I had free time from my schoolbooks I studied spelling."

George said he studied three to four hours a day for the Bee. Like the second- and third-place finishers, he is home-schooled, giving his parents more flexibility in choosing his curriculum. George plans to share the prize money with his parents, who he said helped prepare him to become a champion speller. "Our number one goal in keeping him at home was to influence his character and development," said George’s father, K. George Thampy. "He has developed some character qualities that we are very proud of, and he also has free time for his own studies. He has taught me a lot about pronunciations and language origins."

George said his biggest scare of the Bee came during Round 7, when he guessed "emmetropia" correctly. "I wasn’t sure whether it had two ‘m’s or whether it had an ‘a’ or an ‘e.’ But I thank God for putting the right answer in my head."

This year’s contest lasted 15 rounds, longer than any Bee since 1997. "Demarche," George’s winning word, means a diplomatic maneuver. Other notable words from the second day of the Bee:

misogamist - A German word for "eight," spelled correctly in Round 8 by fourth-place winner Jacob Norton.

lacertilian - Of or relating to a lizard, misspelled in Round 7 by JJ Goldstein, 10, of West Hempstead, N.Y.

luftmensch - An impractical, contemplative person; a dreamer, spelled correctly in Round 6 by runner-up Sean Conley.

misogamist - One who hates marriage, misspelled in Round 4 by Tucker McLean, 14, of Bend, Ore.

risibility - The ability or inclination to laugh, misspelled in Round 4 by April Reynolds, 12, of Greenville, S.C.

sialoid - Resembling saliva, spelled correctly in Round 7 by fourth-place winner Jacob Norton.

Information and pictures courtesy Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee