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Saarth Deo, NSW Spelling Bee Champion 2022

A Year 4 student from Wentworthville Public School, Saarth Deo wins the 2022 New South Wales Premier’s Spelling Bee

Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

It was a relatively easy word that ultimately got Saarth Deo through at the 2022 New South Wales Premier’s Spelling Bee.

He spelt the word accredit correctly to win the prestigious title of Junior Champion 2022.

“When I heard the word, I felt confident,” the Year 4 student and champion speller from Wentworthville Public School told Indian Link.

He added, “I was thrilled to win.”

He certainly would have been thrilled, having traversed through eleven gruelling rounds against some of the best spellers across the state, spelling more challenging words like mystique and psyche.

Run annually, the NSW Premier’s Spelling Bee is a highly-regarded state-wide tournament which this year saw a whopping 167,700 students enter.

1,700 students made it to Regional Finals, with 30 competing in the Grand Final.

2022 spelling bee junior finals
Saarth joins the state’s top spellers at the finals (Source: NSW Government Arts Unit)

Contestants were given a test list with hundreds of words beforehand. However, the grand finals saw only three words sourced from the ‘seen’ list, and eight taken from an ‘unseen’ list.

Saarth Deo had probably come across many of the words from the ‘unseen’ list before – given he reads the dictionary for half an hour every night.

It also helps that he’s a voracious reader (current passion being Captain Underpants). “Yes I love reading,” he said. “I can grab new words. Reading helps me to increase my vocabulary.”

Saarth was drawn to the idea of spelling bees after watching Spelling the Dream, a Netflix documentary exploring the success of Indian American kids in the famous Scripps National Spelling Bee.

His love for the competition was nurtured further by weekly spelling quizzes in school, allowing him to regularly experience the form of the Bee and improve his skills. At home, his parents helped him with regular mock tests to quiz him.

Saarth’s mum Neha revealed having observed a spark early on.

“At three years of age, we noticed he was following subtitles as he watched ABC Kids on TV, or even Hindi films,” she said.

“As well, I think the fact that he has a photographic memory helped him in the spelling bee,” she laughed.

Saarth’s calm and composed demeanour must have contributed too.

“He stayed cool, calm and collected throughout the competition, not getting flustered or bamboozled with the trickier words,” Neha revealed.

Perhaps it is a quality that comes in handy in his other passion, cricket. A pace bowler at his local cricket club and an ardent David Warner and Pat Cummins fan, Saarth hopes to become a part-time cricketer and full-time scientist when he grows up.

Indian kids have long ruled the world of spelling bees. Many arguments have been forwarded for why this is so, including a propensity for languages (given they are exposed to multiple languages early on), as well as a strong sense of academic rigour, and perhaps a little bit of pressure to meet family expectations.

But for Saarth’s parents it was about supporting him to do the things he enjoys.

“It’s best to encourage our children to do what they enjoy; give them resources to support their interests,” Neha related.

The relaxed competitor himself had two final pieces of wisdom to share with not only for those aspiring to enter future spelling tournaments, but something we should all live by:

“Keep reading, and reading what you like.”

And, “Follow where your heart leads to.”

For young students interested to emulate Saarth Deo’s success story, the dates have been announced for the 2023 NSW Premier’s Spelling Bee.

Saarth Deo

READ ALSO: Harini Logan wins 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee

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