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US spelling bee winners shock again in surprising tie


The two co-champions of the US national spelling bee are sharing a trophy, marking the second year in a row the contest ended in a tie.

Vanya Shivashankar, 13, is a five-time competitor of the bee, and her sister won in 2009. Gokul Venkatachalam, 14, nearly won last year.

Paige Kimble, the bee’s executive director, was shocked to see another tie.

She had predicted another half-century would pass before it happened.

Ms Kimble said she was impressed by both winners, but was sure a word would trip one of them up at some point.

That never happened during the contest, held at a convention centre outside of Washington, DC and aired by sports network ESPN.

The two sailed through the 25 words reserved for the final three spellers without stumbling.

“Scherenschnitte”, the art of cutting paper into decorative designs, was Vanya’s final world.

Following Vanya, Gokul nailed his final word, which determined whether he would be a co-champion or lose: “nunatak”, a hill or mountain surrounded by ice.

Before last year, a tie had not happened since 1962.

The winners continue on with the 10-year-streak of Indian-Americans snagging the spelling bee champion title.

Asked how she was feeling after the contest, Vanya said she was dedicating the win to her grandmother, who had passed away a few years ago. She hopes to become a cardiac surgeon.

Gokul hopes to attend Stanford University and become an entrepreneur or stockbroker.

The two winners will receive more than $37,000 (£24,000) in cash and prizes.

Eleven million spellers entered local bees hoping to qualify for this year’s contest. Only 285 make it to the national bee.

The bee may have to get more challenging in coming years, Ms Kimble said. The event has become so popular and competitive that winners sail past the toughest words.

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