PICTURES, VIDEO

Ashvin Sivakumar, 12, from Anglo-Chinese School (Primary) is Big Spell Champion

Plucky Ashvin Sivakumar, 12, challenged judges to take the national spelling championship on Saturday.

He beat 30 other competitors after a full 10 rounds, finally leaving 10-year-old Kua Le Yi from Catholic High School (Primary) in second place and 11-year-old Loi Si Xian from Raffles Girls Primary School in third.

From the outset, the Primary 6 pupil from Anglo-Chinese School (Primary) was a standout at the microphone, towering a full-head above others and typically asking for a definition and root word.

Then, in a two-person fight for the winning word, Ashvin matched spirit to stature. When judges ruled that he had misspelt "pescatarian", as "pescetarian", he stood his ground, imploring them twice to make sure they had it right.

"I'm pretty sure it can also be spelt 'c-e', can you check please?" he asked. They did so, according to contest custom, referencing official contest texts the Oxford Dictionary of English and the Cambridge Pronouncing Dictionary. They then stayed with their call.

"But my mum tested that one on me," he argued. "I'm quite sure it can be spelt with an 'e'." That prompted them to consult the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, for American derivations, before finally awarding him the word.

For the championship, he spelt his next word "pulchritudinous", as the audience in a packed Raffles City Convention Centre held their breath. As soon as The Big Spell green lollipop rose to signal he'd got it right, the 400-strong crowd exhaled audibly, erupting into applause.

The word, which means physically beautiful, could just as well describe the portrait of his win - especially so, after a three-year quest. "I am very happy and elated. I finally got it on my third time," he told The Sunday Times after coming offstage.

Ashvin has made it to the finals for three years, but was unplaced in 2012 and 2011. On his unwavering stance in lodging a challenge, he said: "It's my opportunity. I had to grasp it. I had to make the best of it."

And that, he did.