WASHINGTON: The annual Scripps Spelling Bee ended in a tie for the third consecutive year on Thursday with two Indian-Americans, once again for the third time running, declared joint winners.
Nihar Janga, one of them, also became the youngest to win the Bee since 2002, at 11. “I’m just speechless. I can’t say anything. I’m only in fifth grade,” he gushed at the presentation ceremony.
Jairam Hathwar, the second winner, was older at 13. His win was equally remarkable — his elder brother Sriram Hathwar is also a bee winner, from 2014, and also a joint winner.
“I wasn’t expecting this,” Hathwar, who is from New York state, said later, adding, “I dreamed about winning this bee and it finally came true. It’s just amazing.”
Hathwar and Janga competed as equals despite the age gap, cheered each other on in the sudden-death rounds when they were the only ones left, dueling one obscure word after another.
In the final round, when either could have lost with a wrong spelling, Hathwar got his word “Feldenkrais” right; it’s a method of education named after its Israeli founder.
Janga, a Texan who become a crowd favourite with a commentator calling him “The Machine” for his cool demeanor, won with “gesellschaft”, a German-origin word for community, society.
Each of them won a trophy and $45,000 in cash and prizes.