New Yorker wins U.S. spelling bee with 'knaidel'

Thu May 30, 2013 11:32pm EDT
 
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By Ian Simpson

OXON HILL, Maryland (Reuters) - Arvind Mahankali, a 13-year-old boy from Bayside Hills, New York, won the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday by correctly spelling "knaidel," a kind of dumpling.

Mahankali, a student at Nathaniel Hawthorne Middle School, had finished third in the contest twice before, each time stumbling on German words. This year, the packed auditorium erupted in a standing ovation when he nailed "knaidel," which comes from German-derived Yiddish.

"I thought, 'The German curse had turned into a German blessing,'" he said of his victory. "It means I can retire on a good note."

Mahankali, who wants to become a quantum physicist, defeated 10 other finalists. Asked what he planned to do during his summer vacation, he said he planned to study physics.

He said he would use the $30,000 cash prize for college.

The second-place finisher was Pranav Sivakumar, 13, of Tower Lakes, New York, who attends Barrington Middle School. Sriram Hatwar, 13, from Painted Post, New York, and a student at the Alternative School for Math & Science, finished third.

Finalists were eliminated on such words as "pathognomonic," a disease's characteristics, "doryline," a kind of ant, "melocoton," a grafted peach, and "kaburi," a land crab.

Contestants bit lips and clutched hands as they spelled before a crowded ballroom. All asked for definitions, origins, and a sentence using the word. Most wrote the word on their hands or forearms with a finger before spelling them into a microphone.   Continued...

 
Arvind Mahankali of New York holds his trophy after winning the National Spelling Bee at National Harbor in Maryland May 30, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque