Indian-Americans Sriram Hathwar of New York and Ansun Sujoe (top) of Texas
shared the title after a riveting final-round duel in which they nearly
exhausted the 25 designated championship words. After they spelled a
dozen words correctly in a row, they both were named champions.
The past eight winners and 13 of the past 17 have been of Indian
descent, a run that began in 1999 after Nupur Lala’s victory, which was
later featured in the documentary “Spellbound.”
14-year-old Sriram opened the door to an upset by 13-year-old Ansun
after he misspelled “corpsbruder,” a close comrade. But Ansun was unable
to take the title because he got “antegropelos,” which means waterproof
Sriram entered the final round as the
favorite after finishing in third place last year. Ansun just missed the
semifinals last year.
They become the fourth co-champions in the bee’s 89-year history and the first since 1962.
“The competition was against the dictionary, not against each other,”
Sriram said after both were showered with confetti onstage. “I’m happy
to share this trophy with him.”
Sriram backed up his status as
the favorite by rarely looking flustered on stage, nodding confidently
as he outlasted 10 other spellers to set up the one-on-one duel with
Ansun. The younger boy was more nervous and demonstrative, no more so
than on the word that gave him a share of the title: “feuilleton” the
features section of a European newspaper or magazine.
whatever!” Ansun said before beginning to spell the word as the stage
lights turned red, signaling that he had 30 seconds left.
Although they hoisted a single trophy together onstage, each will get
one to take home, and each gets the champion’s haul of more than $33,000
in cash and prizes.
Gokul Venkatachalam of Missouri finished third, and Ashwin Veeramani of Ohio, was fourth.