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AMERICAN MORNING

Interview With Spelling Bee Champ Sai Gunturi

Aired May 30, 2003 - 09:50   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: To be or not to be: 251 youngsters were feeling the pressure this week as they competed in America's toughest spelling test. It took 11 rounds to determine a winner in the National Spelling Bee. Sai Gunturi, an eighth grader from Dallas, had the last word.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAI GUNTURI, STUDENT: Pococurante. P-O-C-O-C-U-R-A-N-T-E.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are the champion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Sai Gunturi took home $12,000 and other prizes. And take a look now at some of other words he had to handle during the finals -- something like "marmoraceous," "mistassini," "solfeggio" -- I really have no idea if I'm saying any of these right, but it sounds good for now.

Anyway, America's new champion wordsmith, 13-year-old Sai Gunturi is with us now from Washington this morning. Sai, hello to you and congratulations.

GUNTURI: Thank you.

COLLINS: How are you feeling this morning?

GUNTURI: Still pretty tired.

COLLINS: Pretty tired? It was exhausting?

GUNTURI: Yes. Yes, it was.

COLLINS: How on earth did you know all of those words?

GUNTURI: Actually, I didn't know two of them. I didn't know "halogeton," and I didn't know the one that I got in the third round, "Veracruzano."

COLLINS: You know them now?

GUNTURI: Yes, I know them now.

COLLINS: What are they?

GUNTURI: "Halogeton" is H-A-L-O-G-E-T-O-N, and that is a kind of weed, and "Veracruzano" is V-E-R-A-C-R-U-Z-A-N-O, and that's from Veracruz, Mexico.

COLLINS: OK. I won't ask you to spell any more this morning, I promise.

GUNTURI: OK.

COLLINS: We are interested, though, in your last word, "pococurante," which we are all becoming very familiar with this morning. You seemed really confident about this word. Were you?

GUNTURI: Yes. I had studied it before, like, in sixth grade and in seventh grade and this year too, I studied it.

COLLINS: How lucky is that?

GUNTURI: Yes, I know. I couldn't believe it at first.

COLLINS: Tell me about the studying, a little bit, if you would, Sai. I know that you have competed a few times before in this very contest. How do you go about getting ready?

GUNTURI: It's my -- it's my whole family. My mom, my sister, my younger brother, and my dad asking me words. We make like little flash cards, like this big, and they'd ask me from those. They they'd have the definition on them, and the word and the pronunciation. And we had one of those cards for pococurante, so that's how I remembered it.

COLLINS: Wow. That is fantastic. When they tell you that, the definition, the pronunciation, and the usage, it seems like people ask for that even though they already know the word. Why do they do that?

GUNTURI: Well, I don't know. Sometimes it might confirm what they're thinking in case they just might be wrong.

COLLINS: Just to help keep things clearer?

GUNTURI: Yes.

COLLINS: Hey, we know that there is a 14-year-old girl, Evelyn Blacklock. When she was spelling her last word, she became the runner-up. She didn't get that word right. What were you thinking when she got it wrong?

GUNTURI: Well, at first, I thought she was going to know it because I thought it was not that hard because I had studied it a lot. I thought she would be able to spell it right. So then -- and when she misspelled it, at first I didn't get it.

COLLINS: You thought it was your chance, right?

GUNTURI: Yes.

COLLINS: You're going to spend the money on video games?

GUNTURI: Yes. My parents probably aren't going to let me. COLLINS: Maybe not all 12,000 bucks. OK. Sai Gunturi, thanks so much for being with us this morning, and once again, congratulations to you. Good job.

GUNTURI: Thank you.

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