Like all winners say: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. This must’ve been the trick for 14-year-old Karthik Nemmani, who won the Scripps National Spelling Bee on May 31 after losing both his regional and county spelling bees.

Nemmani made it to the championship for the first time through a wild card program implemented this year. Previously, his loss at the county spelling bee would’ve disqualified him from attending the national competition. This initiative was sparked by the lack of opportunity for talented spellers in Dallas, which is one of the few highly competitive regions that typically sends several spellers to the national spelling bee.

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Nemmani only had to spell two words correctly after his opponent 12-year-old Naysa Modi misspelled the word “bewusstseinslage” in the first round. His winning word was “koinonia,” meaning Christian fellowship or communion. Nemmani never lost his cool, as the competition was broadcasted live on ESPN as confetti rained down on the champion.

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Both competitors are from the suburbs of Texas, where Modi defeated Nemmani at their county spelling bee. Nemmani shared kind words of his bested opponent.

“She’s a really, really good speller. She deserved the trophy as much as I did,” Karthik said. “I got lucky.”

The third-place-finisher, 11-year-old Abhijay Kodali, is also from the Dallas region. Kodali came in second to Modi at the county spelling bee.

Nemmani admitted there were at least eight or nine words he didn’t know during the prime-time finals, which is unusual for a Scripps champion. He is the 14th consecutive Indian-American champion and will be receiving the trophy and over $40,000 in cash and prizes.

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