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By now you might have already heard that 14 year old Anamika Veeramani has won the national spelling bee. She is an 8th grader at a Catholic school less than a mile from where I live. Her family emigrated to the USA from India and lives not far from me. Here is her story as it appeared in the local newspaper.
Spelling bee winner finds 'stromuhr' is ticket to unexpected fame
By Sabrina Eaton, The Plain Dealer
June 05, 2010, 8:06PM
With Michael Sangiacomo, Plain Dealer reporter
WASHINGTON -- Winning Friday night's Scripps National Spelling Bee transformed 14-year-old Anamika Veeramani from schoolgirl to celebrity overnight.
On Saturday morning, limousines ferried the Incarnate Word Academy eighth-grader to television interviews. Strangers stopped her in the Grand Hyatt hotel lobby to offer congratulations and seek autographs. A bodyguard was assigned to trail her until she leaves Washington.
"I think he's more for awkward situations," she says of the bodyguard.
On Sunday, Anamika is taking a train to New York to be on Monday's "Live with Regis and Kelly." Then she flies to Los Angeles so she can appear Tuesday on "Jimmy Kimmel Live." From there, she'll head home to North Royalton, where her father, Alagaiya, is a civil engineer, and her mother, Malar, is a bank vice-president.
Anamika won the contest by correctly spelling such tongue-twisters as "nahcolite," a white mineral consisting of sodium bicarbonate; "epiphysis," a bone part in higher vertebrates; and "juvia," a Brazil nut. Her final word was "stromuhr," a tool that measures the speed of blood through an artery.
If Anamika achieves her career goal of becoming a cardiovascular surgeon, she figures she'll end up using a stromuhr.
Despite her low-key demeanor, Anamika says she's enjoying the flurry of attention and anticipating spending some of her $30,000 in prize money on an iPad. Her prizes also include a $5,000 scholarship from the Sigma Phi Epsilon Educational Foundation, more then $3,500 worth of reference material from Encyclopedia Britannica and Merriam-Webster, and an immense trophy from Scripps.
"It is so big and heavy, it's hard to lift up," she says of the trophy. "I guess I'll keep it someplace where people can see it."
Anamika says she's wanted to spell competitively since some of her friends began doing so in third or fourth grade. To prepare for the competition, she says she read a lot -- Harry Potter books are favorites -- and studied two to three hours each weekday and up to eight hours on weekends.
"It is all about being exposed to as many words as possible," she says. "If I see a word in context, it helps me to remember it."
Incarnate Word teacher Janice Hearst, who helped Anamika prepare for the past two spelling bees, says Anamika set her mind on winning after she placed fifth last year.
"She's a very self-motivating girl, so I am not surprised she won," says Hearst.
"She is very calm under pressure and executes very well," adds Anamika's mother.
Anamika, who expects to attend Laurel School in Shaker Heights next year, figures she'll stop spending so much time on spelling because there aren't any more competitions for kids beyond eighth grade.
She'd like to use the free time she'll have to write books -- she's currently working on a science-fiction novel and a ghost story - as well as immerse herself in other hobbies, like playing golf and performing traditional classical dances from India.
Both of Anamika's parents immigrated to the United States from Chennai in southern India, and Anamika believes that her Asian-American heritage gave her a good "study ethic" that contributed to her win. She notes that most of the competition's finalists were of Asian extraction.
"If your parents immigrate to this country from India, Japan, China or Korea, they bring that study ethic with them and instill it in their children," she says.
One of Anamika's favorite parts of spelling has been hanging out with the other competitors.
"People imagine that we are cutthroat, but it's not that way at all," she says. "When someone got out, we gave them a standing ovation. We knew how hard everyone had worked."
Anamika is particularly chummy with last year's national spelling bee winner, Kavya Shivashankar of Kansas, who attended this year's competition to cheer on her 8-year-old sister, Vanya, who was the competition's youngest speller.
Although Vanya was eliminated early, Cleveland Cavaliers star Shaquille O'Neal showed up on Friday to challenge Kavya to a private spelling face-off that was taped for future broadcast on O'Neal's reality TV show, "Shaq vs." Kavya reports that she beat O'Neal when he flubbed the word "distinguo."
Anamika's 10-year-old brother, Ashwin, also is interested in spelling. Anamika hopes he makes it to the spelling bee someday, so she can tag along.
"It would be nice to come back here without all the pressure," she says.
The full article along with video clips can be read on this link: blog.cleveland.com/metro/2010/06/spelling_bee_winner_finds_stro.html