Spelling Bee was a breeze for cool Sameer

May 31st, 2008 - 11:48 am ICT by admin  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, May 31 (IANS) Sameer Mishra, 13, who won back the Scripps National Spelling Bee trophy for Indian Americans after three years credited his parents with telling him to stay “calm, cool and collected.” “(It’s) pretty heavy since I’m feeling really weak,” the four-time participant said when he was handed the trophy Friday night. “I don’t know how I pulled it off. Definitely my parents support, my sisters pushing me to study hard, my hard work and effort,” he said.

Sameer’s victory more than fulfilled a promise made to his mother years ago when he watched his older sister compete at the bee. “I’ll take you one day, ” Sameer told his mother, Alkra.

“I wasn’t really surprised,” said his sister, Shruti, who competed nationally in 2002, 2003 and 2004 but never made it past Round 2. “He knew enough words to make it this far. Nonetheless, there’s an element of luck,” she said.

Sameer said he knew the three words - “macedoine,” “hyssop” and “diener” -he was given during the semifinals Friday. But he took his time spelling them. “This is a one-time event and I didn’t want to screw up,” he said.

Sameer actually missed his word in the first oral round Thursday, “sudation,” which is defined as the process of sweat glands secreting salty fluid. He spelled “s-u-d-a-t-i-a-n” but scored high enough on the 25-word written exam to advance out of the preliminaries.

“He’s not a morning person,” said his father, Krishna, explaining the early misstep. His first word in prime time was a Bantu word that even the announcer admitted was obscure, “basenji,” which is a type of African dog.

His second caused the room to erupt in laughter when the audience, and Sameer, thought he had been given the word ‘numbnut.” When he realized it a Hindi word,”numnah,” a pad placed between a horse’s back and the saddle, Sameer said, “That’s a relief.”

He looked most uncomfortable in Round 11, asking for alternate definitions and pronunciations for “nacarat,” a vivid red. “Are you sure there’s no alternate pronunciation?” he asked before holding up his placard to try to spell the word with his finger, a common bee technique.

The bee has been a family affair, consuming dinner table conversation and summer vacations. “We’re really going to miss the spelling bee,” said Alka Mishra.

She urged her son to take at least a week off after last year’s competition, when he exited in the sixth round, the last Hoosier to fall. But he didn’t listen.

Instead, Sameer, who studied between four and five hours a day, decided to make lists of every word in the dictionary he didn’t know. He got through every letter except words beginning with the letter “C” and is determined to finish the C-words this summer, according to Shruti, even though he will be too old to compete next year.

Sameer’s four years of experience, combined with the three years he tagged along as Shruti competed, were an advantage.

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