Arvind V. Mahankali, an eighth grader who goes to Nathaniel Hawthorne Middle School in Bayside, Queens, won a nationally televised Spelling Bee contest last Thursday night. He did it by spelling “knaidel,” a Yiddish term of German origin meaning “dumpling.”
The last two years, he had been defeated by German words and finished third. But he appeared confident this time, calmly spelling the last two words correctly to win.
Arvind broke into a grin when he heard the German origin of his winning word. His downfall in 2012 was Schwannoma, meaning tumor of the nerve sheath. “Jugendstil,” meaning artistic style, stumped him in 2011. The “German curse has turned into a German blessing,” he later joked.
Another boy, Pranav Sivakumar, from Illinois, stumbled on “cyanophycean.” Arvind spelled “tokonoma,” then “knaidel.” Soon he stood alone on the stage showered with confetti.
The New York Daily News sponsored Arvind in the contest.
Arvind and 10 other super spellers were competing for more than $30,000 in cash and other prizes. The contest was broadcast nationwide on ESPN.
The boy genius said he would save the money for college. He seemed to take his win in stride. “Maybe I’ll be excited tomorrow morning after I realize this has happened,” said the aspiring physicist. He plans to attend Manhattan’s famed Stuyvesant High School next year.
His father, Srinivas, his mother, Bhavani, and his 9 year old brother, Srinath, supported the young man from Bayside.
“Next year I want to be in this spelling bee,” Srinath said.
Asked about winning in his final year of eligibility, Arvind said, “It means that I am retiring on a good note.”