12-year-old Indian-American wins USA spelling bee

Ananya Vinay, 12, from Fresno, Calif., holds the trophy after being declared the victor of the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee, in Oxon Hill, Md., Thursday, June 1, 2017.

"Congratulations to our 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee Champion, Ananya Vinay".

"It's unbelievable", said Greg Howard, father of Erin, who spoke after his daughter learned that she would be appearing on ESPN later in the night.

The 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee competition will be held from May 30, 2017 through June 1, 2017.

The 12-year-old from Fresno, California, showed little emotion and didn't take much time as she ploughed through word after word.

Vinay takes home a $40,000 cash prize and trophy, along with a $2,500 USA savings bond and complete reference library, a trip to New York City and Hollywood.

In a post-victory interview, Ananya told reporters she was able to recognise one of the final words as it had been mentioned in her social studies book. She rarely took even half her allotted 2 minutes to spell.

"OK, you really have to give me a word I know right now".

"It was interesting to go back-and-forth for so many rounds", she said.

She seized the opportunity when Rohan flubbed a simple-looking but obscure Scandinavian-derived word, "marram", which means a beach grass.

That wasn't enough to help Vinay - who then asked for language of origin ("gibberish"), part of speech ("a noun, but may be used as a verb or an insult"), and alternative pronunciations ("there are many"). Balu Natarajan from IL was the first Indian American to have won the competition back in 1985.

For Rohan, a 14-year-old from Edmond, Oklahoma, it was his first time on the national stage.

"I just focused on my word and tried to spell it right", Ananya Vinay on CNN's "New Day". "Definition, please", she asked with a big smile. She missed "saccharomycete" in the next round and was eliminated from the competition.

She got "apparentement", or an alliance of French political parties formed during an election. Rohan, who was bidding to become the first victor from Oklahoma since 1965, won $30,000. She spelled 35 words correctly.

The two were among the brightest and best young spellers gathered for Thursday's finals, a marathon event that stretched late into the night, according to organisers.

  • Leroy Wright