Arvind Mahankali: 'Knaidel' Spelled to Clinch Scripps Spelling Bee

It was two German words that stumped Arvind Mahankali — of Queens, New York — in two previous Scripps spelling bees, bringing him third place in each of the past two years. In a literary twist of fate it was the Yiddish word — of German origin — knaidel, which brought him victory in this, his last year of eligibility. Asked how he felt about the win, the precocious speller said he was thrilled to "retire on a good note."


Prior to this year’s contest, he studied furiously, and had his mother quiz him. Through this hard work he beat out 11 million other participants across the nation. The contest was narrowed to 281 participants who made the trip to Oxon Hill, Maryland where the competition was held, and only eleven made it to the finals.

Competitor Pranav Sivakumar, a 13-year-old from Tower Lakes, Illinois, finished second missing on "cyanophycean." Mahankali nailed "tokonoma" and finally "knaidel” thus turning his “German curse into a German Blessing.”

Ambitious about his next move he says he’ll spend his summer studying physics, and try for the math and physics Olympiad in the coming years.

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Nicole Polizzi

Nicole is an adjunct lecturer in Sociology, Philosophy and Composition at ASA in Manhattan. Professionally she is dually obsessed with the expansion/protection of human rights and social justice, and holistic, arts-inclusive education reform. Running, writing and belting Adele in the shower are her catharses.

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