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Queens Teen Conquers German Word to Win National Spelling Bee

By  Aidan Gardiner and Trevor Kapp | May 31, 2013 8:45am 

Arvind Mahankali Wins
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ESPN via Business Insider

QUEENS — Arvind Mahankali laughed when the judge told him the origin of the final word he had to spell: German, the language that had kept him from the nation's top spelling prize two years in a row.

But then, calmly, the 13-year-old from Bayside recited seven letters — "knaidel" — and looked skyward as confetti christened him the new spelling champion.

"The German curse has turned into a German blessing," said the eighth-grader from Nathaniel Hawthorne Middle School as he hoisted the Scripps National Spelling Bee trophy over his head, the New York Times reported.

Arvind had finished third in 2011 and 2012, each time thwarted by Germanic words, but this year his competition fumbled "cyanophycean," an adjective related to an algae, paving the way for his Teutonic triumph.

"I had begun to be a little wary of German words, but this year I prepared German words and I studied them, so when I got German words this year, I wasn't worried," Arvind said, according to NBC New York.

"Knaidel," a Yiddish term, refers to a type of dumpling.

Arvind, who was on the Today show Friday morning and is scheduled to fly to Los Angeles next week for an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel, said that he now plans to retire from competitive spelling with the top prize, $30,000 cash, and a $25,000 bond.

Faculty at Nathaniel Hawthorne Middle School on Friday celebrated Arvind's victory, placing a banner reading, "Congratulations Arvind Mahankali. National Spelling Bee Champion 2013" outside the gates.

"It's huge for the school," said Assistant Principal Richard Schaffer, 34. "It's a claim-to-fame for the school because we may not have trained him to be the speller that he was, but he's learned enough from his years here that we've made an influence on him I would suspect."

Schaffer said that despite the attention Arvind's gotten recently for his spelling prowess, he has remained extremely humble.

"He's not flashy. He walks around the school as if he's just a normal student," Schaffer said. "He's very down to earth. He doesn't strike you as the celebrity that he's become."