Michaella Bostrom has been crowned winner of the 5th Japan Times Spelling Bee after besting 37 other students from around the country, booking a ticket to the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington on her third try.
“I’m surprised!” the 14-year-old student at Kakegawa International Christian School in Shizuoka Prefecture said after receiving her trophy Saturday. “I thought there was a possibility, but didn’t really expect to win. I’m happy.”
“Spelling is my favorite subject,” the American added.
The veteran speller said she practiced every day before the contest for about a month, writing down spellings and definitions for words 10 times each.
She finally clinched the competition by correctly spelling “frippery,” which can mean affected elegance or ostentation, or a showy or unnecessary ornament in architecture, dress or language.
Bostrom’s mother, Cheryl, said her daughter did most of the studying on her own and did not seek help from her parents. “She’s very self-motivated,” she said, adding that her daughter is also an avid reader.
This year’s Japan bee drew 38 students aged from 8 to 14 to the headquarters of The Japan Times in Tokyo. Most of them were from international, U.S. and Canadian schools, and Indian schools mainly in Tokyo and in Chiba, Shizuoka, Osaka, and Okinawa prefectures.
After 14 rounds, the championship round arrived sooner than expected. The audience of 130, filled with the contestants’ families, teachers and friends, looked on earnestly as the two finalists battled to get to the championship round.
Ganesh Gautham Elango, 13, from K. International School Tokyo in Koto Ward, challenged Bostrom by correctly spelling “parsnip” and “throbbed” but missed “snippet” to take second place.
Bostrom countered by nailing “cherubic,” “fail-safe” and “gadfly” before clinching the championship round by nailing “frippery.”
The rules for The Japan Times Spelling Bee are similar to the Scripps National Spelling Bee held in the United States. Each competitor must spell the word out loud, and can request that a definition, the language of origin, and an alternate pronunciation be provided. They can also ask the pronouncer to use the word in a sentence.
The event was supported by the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan, and the International New York Times.
The Scripps National Spelling Bee was first held in 1925 with nine contestants in Washington, D.C., according to the E. W. Scripps Company, an American media conglomerate. Over the years, the event has grown in size and popularity, thanks to prime-time media coverage.
Scripps says the purpose of the contest, which is run on a non-profit basis, is to help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabulary and develop correct English usage.
Bostrom said this was her third time competing in The Japan Times Spelling Bee.
“It was so much easier this time,” she said, noting she was very nervous on her first attempt.
By winning this year’s contest, Bostrom won a chance to compete in Washington at the National Spelling Bee at the end of May. She said she will try her best there, too.
Spelling champions from any school are eligible to participate in the contest but must at least be in the third grade of elementary school and no older than 14.
The 2014 Japan Times Spelling Bee was sponsored by Costco Wholesale Japan, Ltd., Nifco Inc., Simmons Co., the University of Southern California, and Yours Corporation.