More than 10 million American children get 'spellbound' in local contests every year with 275 of the best spellers, including many an Indian American, making it to the finals of the prestigious Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington.
The two-day finals began Wednesday.
With the bee's soaring popularity, the championship round will be broadcast in prime time on network TV for the first time as 139 boys and 136 girls, making up the greatest number of spellers in the history of the event, vie for the coveted title.
More than two-thirds of the spellers this year are 13-14 year olds. The rest are between nine and 15 with just one nine-year-old and two 15-year-old spellers. Over seven in 10 come from public schools, up from a little over two-thirds last year.
Thirty-one spellers are single children. The remaining 244 spellers have 274 sisters and 234 brothers among them. Five spellers are fraternal twins. Twenty-seven spellers have at least one relative (mother, brother, sister or cousin) who has competed in previous national finals.
This year, 12-year-old Samir Patel is one of the favourites for the crown. Patel, who is home-schooled, stood second last year, a notch up from the third position he had secured when he was just nine.
Another Indian American contestant worth keeping an eye on is 12-year-old Bonny Jain, who recently won the National Geographic Bee contest. The next two places in this contest of geographical knowledge also went to two other Indian Americans.
At least two of the Four-Year Repeaters are Indian Americans, Rajiv Tarigopula and Samir Sudhir Patel. So are four of the 13 Three-Year Repeaters, Maithreyi Gopalakrishnan, Bonny Jain, Nilesh K. Raval and Anjay V. Ajodha.
In the last seven years, as many as five winners have been Indian Americans. Last year a 13-year-old eighth grader of Indian descent, Anurag Kashyap, won the title by spelling out 'appoggiatura', a musical term.
Other Indian Americans who have become the Spelling Bee in recent years are Sai Gunturi (2003), Pratyush Buddiga (2002), George Abraham Thampy (2000) and Nupur Lala (1999).
Started in 1925 by the Louiseville-Courier Journal newspaper, the event stirred media frenzy after popular sports channel ESPN started telecasting it in 1994.
Source: IANS News