Indian and American Sukanya Roy wins 84th Scripps National Spelling Bee


Sukanya Roy, an eighth-grader at Abington Heights Middle School, won the 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday night, correctly spelling ‘periscii’ and ‘cymotrichous’ to win the title. She will will take home more than $40,000 in cash and prizes. Sukanya Roy became the fourth consecutive Indian-American, and the ninth Indian American to win the title in the last 12 years.The ultimate test for school kids, the Scripps National Spelling Bee has been wrung into an inspiring novel, a documentary, a feature film and a Broadway musical. So what makes Indians click at contests like the Spelling Bee? Is it their penchant for the language, their ability to study by rote, or is it their desire to stand out in the crowd of immigrants that have made the US their home?

Here are a few Indian-Americans who won the Scripps National Spelling Bee contest:

Anamika Veeramani in 2010: The 14-year-old from North Royalton, Ohio, successfully spelled the words ‘Juvia’ and ‘Stromuhr’ to become the Bee’s 83rd champion. Repeating the community’s feat of 2005, when Anurag Kashyap, Aliya Deri, Samir Patel and Rajiv Tarigopula won the top four positions.

Kavya Shivshankar in 2009: Kavya Shivshankar of Olethe, Kansas, spelt the word ‘Laodicean’ to claim the title in 2009. Kavya who finished fourth in 2008, cracked words like ‘Escritoire’, ‘Hydrargyrum’, ‘Blancmange’, ‘Baignoire’, ‘Ecossaise’, ‘Diacoele’, ‘Bouquiniste’, ‘Isagoge’, and ‘Phoresy’ to win the coveted title.

Sameer Mishra in 2008: After watching his sister’s unsuccessful attempt to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Sameer Mishra set himself on a mission to win the Scripps. And he did it in style when he aced the word ‘Guerdon’ to win the 81st National Spelling Bee contest. Sameer became the first speller to win the title after misspelling his onstage word in the preliminary round.

Anurag Kashyap in 2005: Correctly spelling the word ‘Appoggiatura’, Anurag Kashyap clinched the 2005 edition of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Anurag whizzed through relatively common words such as ‘Prosciutto’, an Italian dry-cured ham, and difficult ones such as ‘Sphygmomanometer’, an instrument for measuring blood pressure.

Sai R. Gunturi in 2003: Sai R. Gunturi, a 13-year-old from Dallas, Texas, won the 76th Annual Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee with the word ‘Pococurante’. He survived 15 rounds to emerge as the 2003 national champion. Among the words Sai spelt correctly en route to the title were ‘Marmoraceous’, ‘Mistassini’, ‘Solfeggio’, ‘Voussoir’, ‘Halogeton’, ‘Dipnoous’, ‘Peirastic’, and ‘Rhathymia’.

Pratyush Buddiga in 2002: Pratyush Buddiga won the 75th Annual Scripps National Spelling Bee when he correctly spelt the word ‘Prospicience’ in the 11th round.

George Abraham Thampy in 2000: Nicknamed ‘Georgie’, George Abraham Thampy of St Louis, Missouri, spelt the word ‘Demarche’ to win the 73rd edition of the Scripps National Spelling Bee contest. Thampy also competed in the National Geographic Bee in 2000, taking second place in that competition one week before he won the National Spelling Bee.

Nupur Lala in 1999: She spelt the word ‘Logorrhea’ to be crowned the champion of the 72nd Scripps National Spelling Bee. She edged out David Lewandowski who missed out on the word ‘Opsimath’. She was also a part of the 2002 documentary ‘Spellbound’, that followed eight competitors in the 1999 Scripps National Spelling Bee. The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Documentary Feature.

Rageshree Ramachandran in 1988: Rageshree Ramachandran won the Bee when she was in the eighth grade – her winning word was ‘Elegiacal’. At age 15, she won a $10,000 Westinghouse Science Talent Search scholarship and always lists her championship on her resumes and applications.

Balu Natarajan in 1985: In 1985, Balu Natarajan beat out his competitors by spelling ‘Milieu’ to become an overnight sensation for the Indian-American community. Now a doctor of sports medicine, Balu Natarajan was quoted as saying, “Indian record on spelling bees gives the community quite a bit of confidence that we can do well here, much like other ethnicities pursuing the American dream.”

Just like big names from the film industry and celebrities from other walks of life, Indians who have won the Scripps National Spelling Bee contest have given the Indian community a reason to believe that they too can achieve a lot in a country that they migrated to and dream to live the great American life.
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