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12-year-old Indian-American wins National Spelling Bee contest; WATCH Bruhat Soma spell 29 words correctly

Bruhat Soma, a 12-year-old Indian-American seventh-grade student from Florida, clinched the Scripps National Spelling Bee after he spelt 29 words correctly in the tiebreaker.

12-year-old Indian-American wins National Spelling Bee contest; WATCH Bruhat Soma spell 29 words correctly snt
First Published May 31, 2024, 12:07 PM IST

Twelve-year-old Indian-American seventh-grader, Bruhat Soma, hailing from Florida, clinched victory at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington on Friday. In an impressive display of linguistic prowess, Bruhat spelled 29 words flawlessly, during the intense tiebreaker, reaffirming the dominance of children from this vibrant ethnic community in the prestigious competition.

The thrilling finale saw Bruhat triumph over competitors, notably Faizan Zaki, who spelled 20 words correctly in the lightning round. Bruhat's stellar performance not only secured the championship but also earned him a prize exceeding $50,000 in cash and other accolades.

The culmination of this year's event underscores the remarkable talent and dedication showcased by young spellers, highlighting the cultural richness and diversity celebrated in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

In the tiebreaker, Bruhat clinched victory with his expert handling of "abseil," the championship word, denoting a mountaineering descent using a rope looped over a projection above. Bruhat set a formidable pace, navigating through 30 words flawlessly, seeming unbeatable. Faizan, on the other hand, started off with a more erratic rhythm, attempting 25 words but stumbling on four of them.

“Bruhat Soma rules the word! The Champion of the 2024 Scripps National Spelling Bee! The boy with the unbelievable memory doesn't miss a word all week and takes home the Scripps Cup!” the organisers said.

"Bruhat Soma correctly spelt 29 out of 30 words attempted to earn the coveted champion title and beat the standing spell-off record set by Harini Logan in 2022. Logan spelt 22 out of 26 words correctly during the competition's first-ever spell-off," the organisers said.

“As the competition progressed, it was clear that Faizan and Bruhat – our final two spellers – showed up tonight ready to take down the dictionary,” said Corrie Loeffler, executive director of the Bee.

“Together, they were a powerful match. Bee officials activated the spell-off in the competition's closing minutes, giving these stellar spellers an opportunity to show even more of what they can do,” Loeffler said.

In the ultimate showdown, the last two spellers faced off with 90 seconds each to spell as many words as possible from a predetermined list, while the other remained sequestered. Adam Symson, president and CEO of The E W Scripps Company, bestowed the championship trophy upon Bruhat in a moment of triumph.

“At just 12 years old, Bruhat impressed with his display of knowledge and composure,” Symson said.

Bruhat, under the coaching of 16-year-old former speller Sam Evans, made his third appearance at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, showing remarkable improvement from his previous ties for 163rd in 2022 and 74th in 2023. With a diverse range of interests and accolades, including victories in the Words of Wisdom Bee and SpellPundit Bee, he entered the prestigious competition held in a Maryland suburb of Washington DC.

Hailing from Nalgonda in Telangana, Bruhat's father, Srinivas Soma, witnessed his son's impressive journey. The 2024 Bee boasted eight finalists, with five of Indian-American descent: Rishabh Saha, 14, and Shrey Parikh, 12, from California; Aditi Muthukumar, 13, from Colorado; and Ananya Rao Prassanna, 13, from North Carolina.

Zaki of Allen, Texas, secured a notable prize of USD 25,000, while Shrey Parikh and Ananya Prassanna tied for third place, each receiving USD 12,500.

Dev Shah, an Indian-American, clinched victory in the previous year's Bee by successfully spelling "psammophile," joining the esteemed list of champions alongside Harini Logan in 2022.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee, inaugurated in 1925, stands as the country's premier educational program, demanding rigorous preparation from its participants. The 2020 edition was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the 2024 event welcomed 245 spellers, including 65 returning competitors. Notably, 24 spellers, predominantly of Indian descent, had relatives who had previously participated in a combined total of 40 Bees.

Among the 2023 finalists who advanced to the 2024 competition were Sarah Fernandes, Aryan Khedkar, Tarini Nandakumar, and Shradha Rachamreddy, showcasing the enduring legacy and dedication of young spellers.

Aliyah Alpert and Kirsten Santos both reached the finals in 2022, showcasing their impressive spelling prowess on the national stage. Indian American Akash Vukoti holds the record for the most appearances in the finals, having qualified an astounding six times in 2016, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022, and 2023.

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