SINGAPORE - First-timer Sophi Tan Xuan beat 20 other finalists to become the youngest-ever winner of the RHB-The Straits Times National Spelling Championship on Saturday (April 30).
Two months of practice, which included standing atop a flight of steps at an MRT station and spelling out words to her father who stood at the bottom, paid off for the Primary 4 Raffles Girls' Primary School (RGPS) pupil. The nine-year-old won with the correct spelling of "intelligentsia", guessing from its pronunciation.
At the announcement of her victory, she threw her hands in the air.
Sophi, who was unplaced in the South zone on April 16 but made it to the finals, out-spelt Ho Wing Yip, 11, from Catholic High School (Primary), in the final face off. Third place went to Aloysius Khoo, 12, from St Joseph's Institution Junior.
Both boys are in Primary 6.
Past winners were either Primary 5 or Primary 6 pupils. Sophi bagged $5,000 and the challenge trophy for her school. The runner-up won $3,000, and second runner-up, $1,000.
Despite getting pipped, third-time competitor Wing Yip, the North zone champion, was in high spirits over his best performance so far in The Big Spell.
The game preceding the showdown for the championship was evenly played, with four pupils playing off for the third position - and Aloysius emerging victorious.
The audience was caught up in the gameplay as well, giggling at "chihuahua", and sucking in their breath at longer words such as "hypothyroidism".
The Big Spell is jointly organised by RHB Banking Group and The Straits Times, in partnership with the Ministry of Education. It is supported by Nanyang Polytechnic and the National Library Board, with venue partners Singapore Zoo and Suntec Singapore, and audio and sound partner Philips.
Ahead of the competition proper, an audience of finalists and invited guests and supporters heard from guest of honour Dr Janil Puthucheary, Minister of State for Education, as well as Communications and Information.
He said the combination of hard work and enjoyment are some of the key values gained from competitions such as The Big Spell.
RHB Bank Singapore country head Jason Wong highlighted how the competition had grown from 1,200 participants in its inaugural year to this year's 1,805 registrants at its preliminary round in March.
The Straits Times deputy editor Ignatius Low added that The Big Spell was just one of the ways in which students learn through the news, among other events and projects championed by The Straits Times Schools team, such as the ST-MOE National Current Affairs Quiz for the pre-university crowd and the National Youth Media Competition for students.
For more info: www.straitstimes.com/bigspell
For more info on the ST Schools programme and its offerings: www.straitstimes.com/stschools
Champion: Sophi Tan Xuan, nine, Primary 4, Raffles Girls' Primary School
Winning word: Intelligentsia
Runner-up: Ho Wing Yip, 11, Primary 6, Catholic High School (Primary)
Second runner-up: Khoo Kai Jun Aloysius, 12, Primary 6, St Joseph's Institution Junior