Washington: Indian-American Karthik Nemmani, was declared champion of the 2018 Scripps National Spelling Bee, winning on the word “koinonia” and surviving what was arguably the most intense competition in the contests 93-year history.
In doing so, the 14-year-old on Thursday night emerged the top speller from a record-shattering 515 contestants at the national bee, compared with 291 last year, after organizers expanded eligibility with a new wild-card programme, reports The Washington Post.
Along the way, he had to outlast a field of 16 finalists who vanquished words such as “Praxitelean”, “ispaghul” and “telyn” in a breathtaking show of spelling skill broadcast live on ESPN.
But Nemmani, who was competing at his first national bee, displayed the poise of a veteran, seeming to sail through his words: “condottiere” (knight or roving soldier available for hire), “miarolitic” (of igneous rock), “cendre” (a moderate blue), “ankyloglossia” (limited normal movement of the tongue), “grognard,” “passus,” “shamir” (tiny worm capable to splitting the hardest stone) and “jaguey” (an East Indian tree).
When it was down to two contestants, him and 12-year-old Naysa Modi, Nemmani remained calm as Modi misspelled “Bewusstseinslage”.
He then knocked out “haecceitas” (the status of being an individual) before receiving the word that would clinch his win: “koinonia”, meaning the Christian fellowship or body of believers.
“I’m just really happy,” he said moments after his victory.
“This has just been a dream come true.”
Nemmani also continued a longtime trend by becoming the 14th champion or co-champion of South Asian descent the bee has had in 11 consecutive years, The Washington Post reported.
The 16 spellers took the stage at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Centre in Maryland to battle it out for the title of champion.
In the first round, nearly half of the finalists misspelled their words, including several crowd favourites such as Tara Singh, a 13-year-old from Kentucky who was competing at her fifth and final national bee.
The 16 finalists ranged in age from 11 to 14 and include nine girls and seven boys.
The winner of the bee receives $40,000 and a trophy from the Scripps Bee, a $2,500 cash prize (and a complete reference library) from Merriam-Webster, trips to New York and Hollywood as part of a media tour, and a pizza party for their school.