More than 20 Indian-American students in 40 spellers competed in the final day of this year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee, reaffirming a phenomenal trend for nearly a decade.
About 11 million spellers participated in the competition that kicked off at local levels. Of the 291 contestants that advanced to the national level, at least 75 were Indian-Americans, India West reported.
The final event on Thursday saw the victory of Ananya Vinay of Fresno, California, who bagged $40,000 in prize money after spelling 35 words flawlessly. The winning word was “marocain,” which refers to a type of silk or rayon dress fabric, International Business Times noted.
Vinay, at 12, follows a long list of Indian-American students who emerged as champions in the national competition since 2008. Her win is also the first solo victory in three years as previous ones ended in a tie.
Running up to Vinay was Rohan Rajeev of Edmond, Oklahoma, also an Indian-American. He missed after spelling “marram” incorrectly, a word that refers to a type of coarse, perennial grass.
This astonishing legacy of Indian-American spelling whizzes has already become the subject of academic study. Shalini Shankar, a sociocultural and linguistic anthropologist who heads the Asian American Studies Program at Northwestern University, so far found that the group’s success is related to involvement in a minor-league spelling circuit, a sense of community, the Indian-American love for “brain sports,” and the enthusiasm for the national spelling bee itself, Business Insider wrote.
Watch Vinay’s winning moment below: