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Arvind Mahankali, 13, wins National Spelling Bee with 'knaidel'

Arvind Mahankali won the 86th National Spelling Bee Thursday night by spelling the word "knaidel." He chats with the TODAY anchors about his big win.

The seven-letter word "knaidel" crowned Arvind Mahankali, 13, of Bayside Hills, N.Y., champion of the 86th Scripps National Spelling Bee, breaking his streak of bad luck in past years with spelling words of German origin.

"I thought a German curse has turned into a German blessing," Arvind said as he cradled the trophy Thursday. The word "knaidel" refers to a type of dumpling.

The boy finished third each of the last two years. His victory continues Indian-Americans' winning streak at the Bee -- although he is the first boy to win since 2008.

"I'm not nervous," Arvind, who admires Albert Einstein and wants to become a physicist, told The Associated Press before the finals, "because I think it's good to maintain composure."

Save for the occasional knuckle cracking and giggling, Arvind kept his composure while deflecting such challenging words as "glossophagine," "trichocercous," "thonnier" and "chalumeau."

The final took place Thursday night at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center outside Washington. Arvind took home $30,000 in cash and prizes and a large cup-shaped trophy.


Eleven contestants took the stage in the competition final, demonstrating their spelling prowess with words such as "auncel," "greffier," "envoutement," "mamaliga" and "transrhenane."

Fan-favorite Amber Born, 14, of Marblehead, Mass., was tripped up by "hallali."

Vismaya Kharkar, 14, of Bountiful, Utah, let out a long "No" as the bell dinged on "paryphodrome," eliminating her from the competition.

"It's been life-changing, I think," Vismaya said of being a part of the Bee.

The 11 young finalists had many reasons to be proud.

Not only have they battled stage nerves, obscure words and a newly introduced computerized test that included vocabulary questions, but they were also the last ones standing from a starting pool of 281 contestants.

A simple toll of the bell from judges marked each elimination in a tournament that brought together skilled spellers ages 8 to 14.

The vocabulary quiz introduced this year was part of the organizers' commitment to deepen participants' knowledge of the English language, Bee officials told Reuters. The first test was given in the preliminary phase.

The 42 semifinalists had to take a second computerized test on Wednesday evening.

Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

Spellers ranging in age from 8 to 14 descended on National Harbor, Md., for the annual contest.