Meet Arvind, The 13-Year-Old Spelling Bee Champion

Arvind Mahankali, a Queens native, has won the 86th Scripps National Spelling Bee, after correctly spelling his final word, “knaidel.”

Cliff Owen / AP

Arvind Mahankali spells his word during the finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Oxon Hill, Md., Thursday, May 30, 2013.

Arvind Mahankali takes home a $30,000 prize, a $2,500 U.S. savings bond from Merriam-Webster, $2,000 worth of reference works from Encyclopedia Britannica, and a huge trophy. Plus the respect of spelling enthusiasts everywhere. Tonight’s 11 finalists advanced from 281 competitors based on a combination of onstage performance and computerized spelling and vocabulary tests. For the first time, competitors in the preliminary rounds had to know the definitions of words they spelled.

Cliff Owen / AP

Arvind Mahankali and Pranav Sivakumar, 13, after learning that they will advance to the semifinal round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, in Oxon Hill, Md., Wednesday, May 29, 2013.

A dedicated speller, Arvind Mahankali finished in third place the past two years and in ninth place in 2010.

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / Getty Images

Arvind Mahankali thinks during the championship round at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, May 30, 2013 in National Harbor, Maryland.

After second-place finisher Pranav Sivakumar incorrectly spelled “cyanophycean”, a type of blue-green alga, Mahankali had to spell two words correctly. He successfully spelled “tokonoma,” which is a Japanese word meaning a niche in a house, before spelling “knaidel,” which is a German word for a dumpling. In the past, Mahankali has struggled with German words.

8. In 2011, Mahankali incorrectly spelled the word “jugendstil” during the finals.

LARRY DOWNING / Reuters

Arvind Mahankali, when he was 11 years old, reacts after he spells a word in the semifinals of the 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

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