Look at the girl above. Her name is Ananya Vinay. She is just 12.
And though she may look like just an ordinary 12-year-old, Ananya just became the champion of one of the world’s most brutal sports: the US Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Perhaps you think competitive spelling is not that brutal, and in no way is it as bad-ass as, say, mixed martial arts or rugby.
Well you would be wrong. Let me explain.
First, there is the pressure.
Imagine standing on a stage in front of a crowd of thousands and then being asked to spell a word like Gesamkunstwerk or Eyjafjallajökull - the whole time knowing that if you get even a single letter wrong, everybody will laugh at you and you will be a disappointment to your parents.
In other sports you can come back from a mistake. Spelling is sudden death, all the time with no teammates to blame. And did I mention all the contestants are children?
It is so rough, contestants have been known to faint on stage. Look at this trooper:
He faints, but then picks himself up and then correctly spells the word.
Now ask yourself, when was the last time you saw someone faint in football before taking a penalty kick and then get up and score? Never.
At this point you might be thinking: “Sure, there is a lot of pressure but at least it is a nice supportive familial atmosphere, right?”
Wrong. These are kids we are talking about. They are evil and ruthless.
This guy didn't just mock his fellow contestant, he also left his opponent’s high-five hanging. That’s just cold.
It's as if to win at competitive spelling, the kids almost have to become emotionless, heartless, spelling machines.
You can see some of that in action when they win:
There is confetti falling all around this kid but he is standing there completely stoic. I’ve seen people get more excited when their number comes up at the prawn noodle stall.
And let’s end with another look at this year’s champion, Ananya.
This is her winning. Instead of celebrating she looks almost afraid, like she just saw a swarm of bees. One wonders what would ahve happened if she had lost:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3_b-uUUGSc&t=45s
So there you have it, the Spelling Bee - the most brutal sport ever.