K-n-a-i-d-e-l spells a win for New York boy, 13

Updated
By Becky Bratu
Arvind Mahankali of New York holds his trophy after winning the Scripps National Spelling Bee May 30, 2013. Mahankali, a 13-year-old from Bayside Hills, New...
Arvind Mahankali of New York holds his trophy after winning the Scripps National Spelling Bee May 30, 2013. Mahankali, a 13-year-old from Bayside Hills, New...

This story was originally posted on NBC News.

A 13-year-old New Yorker won the 86th Scripps National Spelling Bee Thursday night.

The seven-letter word “knaidel” crowned Arvind Mahankali, 13, of Bayside Hills, N.Y., champion, breaking his streak of bad luck in past years with spelling words of German origin.

“I thought a German curse has turned into a German blessing,” Mahankali said as he cradled the trophy Thursday. The word “knaidel” refers to a type of dumpling.

The boy finished third each of the last two years. His victory continues Indian-Americans’ winning streak at the Bee–although he is the first boy to win since 2008.

“I’m not nervous,” Mahankali, who admires Albert Einstein and wants to become a physicist, told The Associated Press before the finals, “because I think it’s good to maintain composure.”

Save for the occasional knuckle-cracking and giggling, Mahankali kept his composure while deflecting such challenging words as “glossophagine,” “trichocercous,” “thonnier” and “chalumeau.”

Eleven contestants took the stage in the competition final, demonstrating their spelling prowess with words such as “auncel,” “greffier,” “envoutement,” “mamaliga” and “transrhenane.”

Vismaya Kharkar, 14, of Bountiful, Utah, let out a “No” as the bell dinged on “paryphodrome,” eliminating her from the competition.

“It’s been life-changing, I think,” Kharkar said of being a part of the Bee.

The 11 young finalists had many reasons to be proud as they took the stage.

 Not only have they battled stage nerves, obscure English words such as “pultaceous” and “hypnopompic,” and a newly-introduced computerized test that included vocabulary questions, but they were also the last ones standing from a starting pool of 281 contestants.


A simple toll of the bell from judges marked each elimination in a tournament that brought together skilled spellers aged eight to 14.

The final took place Thursday night at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center outside Washington. The winner takes home $30,000 in cash and prizes, and a large cup-shaped trophy. The Bee’s Twitter feed was buzzing all night with live updates.

The vocabulary quiz introduced this year was part of the organizers’ commitment to deepen participants’ knowledge of the English language, Bee officials told Reuters. The first test was given in the preliminary phase.

The 42 semifinalists had to take a second computerized test on Wednesday evening.

Grace Remmer of St. Augustine, Fla., who is a three-time semifinalist, also made it to the finals for the first time.

She was joined by Vanya Shivashankar of Olathe, Kan., whose sister, Kavya, won the competition in 2009.

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K-n-a-i-d-e-l spells a win for New York boy, 13

Updated