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Eight, including 7 of Indian descent, break the Spelling Bee, make history

Spelling Bee, the popular word spelling competition for American school children, ran out of words to break the logjam Thursday night and declared eight contestants as joint winners for 2019, seven of them of Indian descent.

world Updated: May 31, 2019 20:41 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Spelling bee,World news,Spelling Bee 2019
This was a first for the Scripps National Spelling Bee, as the competition is officially called, which has had two-way joint winners a few times over the 94 years of its history. But eight, never.(AFP photo)

Spelling Bee, the popular word spelling competition for American school children, ran out of words to break the logjam Thursday night and declared eight contestants as joint winners for 2019, seven of them of Indian descent.

This was a first for the Scripps National Spelling Bee, as the competition is officially called, which has had two-way joint winners a few times over the 94 years of its history. But eight, never. And Bee honored the winners and the occasion with, what else, a new word: “Octochamps”.

And they are: Rishik Gandhasri, 13; Erin Howard, 14,; Saketh Sundar, 13; Shruthika Padhy; Sohum Sukhatankar, 13; Abhijay Kodali, 12; Christopher Serrao, 13; and Rohan Raja, 13.

Each of them takes home $50,000; and a cup.

Indian Americans have dominated the competition, winning every one of them since 2008. Seven of the eight Octochamps of Thursday night are also of Indian descent.

“Champion spellers, we are now in uncharted territory,’’ Bee’s pronouncer Jacques Bailly told the contestants after 17 rounds, of each of them spelling their words correctly. “We do have plenty of words remaining on our list. But we will soon run out of words that will possibly challenge you, the most phenomenal collection of super spellers in the history of this competition.”

“We’re throwing the dictionary at you,” he added. “And so far, you are showing this dictionary who is boss.”

The champs withstood three more rounds, and the Bee gave up.

“I feel like there was no better way to do it,” Sundar, one of the winners, said to AP. “I don’t know if I would’ve won if they kept going. I was super tired because it was like 12:00, and I was exhausted.”

Here are the final words they got right. Gandhasri: auslaut; Howard: erysipelas; Sundar: bougainvillea; Padhy: aiguillette; Sukhatankar: pendeloque; Kodali: palama; Serrao: cernuous; and Raja: odylic.

The countrywide competition began this year with 562 contestants, the biggest field yet. Of these, 50 made it to the two-day finals that started Wednesday in National Harbor, just outside Washington DC.

First Published: May 31, 2019 20:41 IST