Teens become first joint US spelling champions in 52 years

Teens become first joint US spelling champions in 52 years
Ansun Sujoe (left), 13, of Fort Worth, Texas, and Sriram J. Jathwar (right), 14, of Painted Post, New York, hold the championship trophy after winning the 87th Scripps National Spelling Bee.

OXON HILL, United States - Two young American teenagers of South Asian heritage made spelling history on Thursday when they became the first co-winners of the Scripps National Spelling Bee since 1962.

Ansun Sujoe, 13, and Sriram Hathwar, 14, hoisted the gold cup after they saw off 10 other finalists and then spelled their way through the demanding final list of 25 words.

Hathwar would have been the champion after correctly spelling stichomythia, meaning a dialogue of altercation in Greek drama, the penultimate word on the list.

But then Sujoe came through with the final word, feuilleton, a French-derived noun for a newspaper supplement or soap opera, making him and Hathwar the first joint champions in 52 years.

They will each take home a golden trophy cup and more than US$30,000 (S$37,638) in cash prizes, savings bonds and reference works.

The boys are also the seventh and eighth youngsters of South Asian heritage since 2008 to win the bee, a nationally televised American institution dating back to the 1920s.

This year's 281 contestants, aged eight to 15, hailed from all 50 states plus the Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, South Korea and US military schools overseas.

Last year, Arvind Mahankali, a 13-year-old New Yorker who placed third in 2011 and 2012, took home the coveted trophy and US$30,000 in cash and prizes when he correctly spelled knaidel after a grueling 2.5-hour elimination final.

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