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News Indian-Americans script history; jointly win the Spelling Bee   Email this page
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WASHINGTON: Two Indian-Americans – Sriram J Hathwar and Ansun Sujoe – today scripted history by becoming co-champions of the prestigious Scripps National Spelling Bee, after a thrilling final in which they almost exhausted the 25 designated words, the first tie since 1962. This is the seventh consecutive year that Indian- Americans have retained the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which was watched live by millions of people in the US. An eighth grader from the Alternative School for Maths and Science, Sriram (14) is from New York, while Ansun (13) is a seventh grader from Texas. In fact like last year, the last three contestants were Indian-Americans – Sriram, Ansun and Gokul Venkatachalam from Missouri. “It’s a dream come true,” Sriram said soon after being declared the co-champion with Ansun. “I was happy when I entered the final. I am even happier that I am the co-champion,” said Ansun who in the last 22nd round correctly spelled “feuilleton”, which is defined as “a part of a European newspaper or magazine devoted to material designed to entertain the general reader.” And in the 21st round Sriram correctly spelled “stichomythia”, which is defined as “dialogue especially of altercation or dispute delivered in alternating lines.” This was the fifth appearance for Sriram. Ansun and Sriram said they are happy to share the trophy. “The competition was against the dictionary, not against each other,” Sriram said. “Same here,” Ansun said. Both Sriram and Ansun will receive a USD 30,000 cash prize, an engraved trophy and other gifts. This is the first time the bee has ended in a tie 1962, organizers said. The Bee has previously had co-champions in 1962, 1957 and 1950 in its 89-year history. Once there are three spellers left in a round, the next round begins with a 25-word list. Ordinarily, a winner is declared if one speller misspells and the remaining speller correctly spells two words in a row. If no winner is declared before the list has been exhausted – or there are not enough words left for two consecutive spellings – co-champions are announced. Sriram is a five-time Bee competitor; he finished third last year and tied for sixth place in 2011. This is Ansun’s second appearance at the Bee; he did not make the semi-finals last year. “I was pretty disappointed last year,” Ansun said. “I did a furious comeback this year. I studied more, a lot.” Indian-origin people remain unchallenged in the Scripps National Spelling Bee since 2008, with Sameer Mishra winning it in 2008, Kavya Shivashankar (2009), Anamika Veeramani (2010), Sukanya Roy (2011), Snigdha Nandipati (2012) and Arvind Mahankali (2013). This year, out of 12 finalists, six were of Indian origin. In addition to Sriram, Ansun and Gokul, the other three were Neha Konakalla, 14 from California; Tejas Muthusamy (11) from Virginia and Ashwin Veeramani (14) from Ohio. In this year’s national championship, 281 spellers from eight countries competed for the title. When not studying spelling, Sriram plays the oboe, piano and chess to keep his mind stimulated. He also enjoys more active pursuits including badminton, tennis and basketball. A seasoned traveler, Sriram has been all over the world, but he still has Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland, France and South Africa on his travel bucket list. Because he has been to the Scripps National Spelling Bee four times already, Sriram once produced a TEDx talk about his experiences in the Bee. Musically gifted, Ansun not only plays piano, guitar and bassoon, he also has perfect pitch. He can instantaneously identify or sing any given musical note without a reference pitch. Ansun also enjoys playing chess, solving complex math problems and programming robots. In his spare time, he ministers to seniors in nearby nursing homes.–PTI

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