Scripting history, two Indian- American children on Friday won the world’s prestigious spelling bee contest, with one of them also becoming its youngest winner, as the community’s complete dominance in the prestigious annual competition continued.
Jairam Jagadeesh Hathwar, 13, and Nihar Saireddy Janga, 11, were declared co-champions of the Scripps National Spelling Bee after a tense final – with seven of the last 10 finalists being Indian-Americans – ended in a tie for the third year in a row.
Fifth grader Nihar is from Texas, while seventh grader Jairam is from New York.
Nihar has also become the youngest winner of the bee on record.
“I am just speechless. I can’t say anything. I am only in fifth grade,” Nihar said with the trophy in his hand as he attributed his success to his mother.
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“My mom. It’s just my mom,” he said.
Eighth grader Snehaa Ganesh Kumar from California, who had tied for fourth place last year, came third.
The other four Indian-Americans among the finalists were Rutvik Gandhasri, Sreeniketh Vogoti, Jashun Paluru and Smirithi Upadhyayula.
In the penultimate 24th round, Nihar spelled the word ‘gesellschaft’ correctly, while Jairam spelled the word ‘Feldenkrais’ correctly.
Jairam attributed his success to his brother Sriram, who was 2014 co-champion.
“He (brother) won the Spelling bee. This was such an inspiration,” Jairam said, adding that if he had not won the Spelling Bee he would not have been on this stage.
This is for the ninth successive year that Indian- Americans won the prestigious Scripps Spelling Bee and 13th in the last 16 years.
Last year, Vanya Shivashankar and Gokul Venkatachalam were declared co-champions.
In 2014, Sriram Hathwar and Ansun Sujoe were declared the joint winners.
A fan of American professional golfer Jordan Spieth, Jairam follows politics and elections devoutly.
He also travels to India annually during summers, and this year, he is looking forward to seeing the Mount Everest. At school, Jairam is especially interested in mathematics and social studies.
He hopes to attend Harvard University to study medicine someday so that he can become a physician.
Nihar loves spelling, and he puts a lot of determination and dedication into learning new words. He also enjoys playing football with his best friends and playing video games — especially his favourite, Batman: Arkham City.
He likes movies that motivate him to become “a beneficially influential citizen”. His favourite movies are “Akeelah and the Bee” and the Star Wars and Mission Impossible films. He aspires to be a neurosurgeon who can develop many cures for serious brain disorders.
In all, 285 students participated in the Scripps Spelling Bee nationals.
Twenty-nine spellers had relatives who participated in a combined 67 Scripps National Spelling Bees and two of this year’s spellers – Jairam and Srinath Mahankali – had siblings who previously won the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Robert Rosenberg, the grandfather of speller Cooper Komatsu, competed in 1955, and Mira Dedhia’s mother, Lekshmi Nair, competed in 1988, 1989 and 1990.
Dhiyana Mishra’s sister, Stuti, took second place in 2012.
Jairam’s brother Sriram competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2008, 2009, 2011 (tied for 6th place), 2013 (tied for 3rd place) and 2014 (co-champion).
He tied for 22nd place in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2015.