2013 Spelling Bee Champ Breaks Three Year ‘German Curse’ in His Fourth and Final Year

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 Arvind Mahankali stood expressionless, fingers tightly knotted, ignoring the confetti pouring down around him, for several moments after he was announced the 2013 champion of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, May 30 in National Harbor, Maryland.

The 13-year-old from Bayside Hills, New York, was making his fourth and final appearance at the annual competition. Eight of the 11 finalists in the closely-contested evening event were Indian American students, none past the age of 14.

Mahankali came in third in 2011, incorrectly spelling judgenstil in the final round. Last year, Mahankali also took third place, after he was bested by schwarmerei. Judgenstil and schwarmerei are both German origin words, and, as he started the finals, Mahankali, who will start high school this fall, told judges he felt a “German curse” had been cast upon him.

But this year, he correctly spelled dehnstufe in an early round, portending a championship wind. His winning word was knaidel, a German origin Yiddish word for a soft, cornmeal ball found in soup or eaten alone as a snack.

“My German curse has turned into a German blessing,” said Mahankali holding up a giant trophy, after his family rushed to the stage to hug him, breaking his motionless pose. “I’m retiring on a good note,” he said, noting this was his final year of eligibility. Read more here.