Windsor speller wins national bee, headed to Washington
When Rishi Damarla spelled that word right in Toronto on Sunday, he eliminated 15 of the best young spellers in the country from the Spelling Bee of Canada championship.
I think it’s going to be a new experience and I just want to have fun in Washington and give it my all, and try to do my best
The 13-year-old Windsor boy successfully spelled 35 words right that day, beating about 130 kids for the national spelling title for his age group one year after placing second in the same competition. His winning word was psychophysiology, a breeze compared to some of the others, he said. He knocked out even more spellers with “inselburg,” “vitellin,” “pirogue,” “analemma,” and “oleaginous.”
The only word he missed, and without consequence because his remaining challenger missed it too, was “chaparral.”
“The main part of the bee is using your knowledge of stems of Latin and Greek and other languages to piece together words,” said Damarla, who entered his first bee at age eight. He recognized he had a good long-term memory, something useful in bees, and discovered his spelling skill, he said.
“I think it’s great to come first this year,” Damarla said. “I think I put a lot more effort this year, so I think those hours really paid off.”
After winning the WFCU Credit Union sponsored Scripps Regional Spelling Bee at the Chrysler Theatre in February, Damarla “really got motivated,” said his dad, Rao Damarla. Now, his son is “on a different level.”
“He has been putting tremendous hours and weekends in to review and study all of Merriam-Webster’s tough words,” Rao Damarla said. “That put him at an advantage over the other kids.”
The Acadamie Ste. Cecile student said his teachers and classmates have also helped him prepare. Some have come up with word lists for him, while others quiz him with daily challenge words.
Watching his son compete in Toronto was “really stressful,” Rao Damarla said.
“Even my wife, she couldn’t take it,” he said. “She was waiting outside the hall.”
When Damarla had to spell particularly challenging words, Rao Damarla would look down so as not to add pressure to his son from his spot in the audience, Rao Damarla said. He silently tried to spell the word himself while his son did it in the spotlight on stage.
The Spelling Bee of Canada takes its words from the Oxford English Dictionary, whereas the Scripps National Spelling Bee uses the Merriam-Webster, Damarla said. That creates an added challenge, he said, but it’s one he’s ready to face.