Tuesday 12 November 2019

Try to keep up with this genius 14-year-old who won a US national spelling bee

Karthik Nemmani won a national spelling bee with the word ‘koinonia’.

(Jacquelyn Martin/AP/Press Association Images)
(Jacquelyn Martin/AP/Press Association Images)

By Emily Chudy, Press Association

Could you spell “koinonia” off the top of your head? What about “ankyloglossia”?

That’s what 14-year-old Karthik Nemmani was up against when he won the biggest Scripps National Spelling Bee in history.

The competition, which took place in Oxon Hill, Maryland, saw Karthik win against 12-year-old Naysa Modi as she stumbled over the word “bewusstseinslage”.

Karthik told AP: “I didn’t really think I’d be able to do it. I had confidence that I could do it, but I honestly didn’t realistically think it could happen.”

Karthik is from McKinney, Texas. His family moved to the town specifically so he could go to a school that takes part in the Scripps programme.

His father explained that Karthik could spell the word “horse” with blocks at the age of three, and won his first spelling bee aged four.

Karthik’s winning word, which he beat 515 spellers to get to, was “koinonia”. The word means Christian fellowship or communion.

Of the other finalist, Naysa, Karthik said: “She’s a really, really good speller. She deserved the trophy as much as I did… I got lucky.”

(Carolyn Kaster/AP/Press Association Images)

Karthik, the 14th consecutive Indian-American champion, took home more than $42,000 (around £31,000) in cash and prizes.

Naysa will try to take the top spot next year. She will be in eighth grade, which is the final school year that spellers are eligible for the competition.

Spelling bee programme manager Corrie Loeffler said: “She was just as graceful as she could be.”

Karthik said: “We weren’t against each other. We were against the dictionary.”

PA Media

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