Mahankali: I Actually Didn’t Realize I Had Won

WASHINGTON, DC:  Perseverance pays off. That’s perhaps the biggest lesson offered by the victory of Indian American teenager Arvind Mahankali at the 89th National Spelling Bee, which concluded Thursday at the National Harbor, just outside the U.S capital.

Arvind Mahankali (Photo: Mark Bowen/Scripps National Spelling Bee)


The eighth grader from the Nathaniel Hawthorne Middle School 74 in Bayside, New York,  topped 280 other elite spellers, who were picked from a pool of more than 11 million contestants, in an excruciating screening process that lasted several months.


This was Mahankali’s fourth trip to the Spelling Bee. In his first attempt in 2010, he finished ninth and the last two visits to the Bee resulted in agonizing third-place finishes.


No wonder, when he finally won it all, Mahankali looked more relieved than ecstatic.


“I actually didn’t realize I had won,” the 13 year-old said during an exclusive chat with The American Bazaar on Friday. “It took a few moments to really sink in.”


Born to parents from Andhra Pradhesh and raised largely in Bayside Hills, NY (he lived briefly in Atlanta), Mahankali is the sixth consecutive Indian American Spelling Bee champion. For the second successive year, Indian American spellers swept the top three positions.


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Date added: 
Saturday, June 1, 2013 - 12:15am