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NZ Speller Trips Over One Letter in Semifinals

New Zealand Speller Trips Over One Letter in Semifinals

New Zealand champion speller Kate Weir was eliminated from the Semifinals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee this morning in Washington DC when she misspelled the word, jardiniere.

Jardiniere is a large ornamental flower pot. Kate is a 13 year-old from Linwood College in Christchurch.

Kate started the word with a 'G' and her accent again meant a long wait as the five judges conferred with each other and then asked for the tape to be replayed so they could hear Kate's spelling a second time time.

Kate's fate however, was sealed when Mary Brooks, Head Judge, asked Kate to say a different word with the same first letter and Kate said "giraffe".

The bell rang and Kate's time in the 80th Scripps National Spelling Bee was over.

Fifty-nine spellers started the Semifinal but only about 15 will make it through to tonight's final so Kate was anything but disappointed with her sterling performance over the last day and a half.

Kate is the third speller from New Zealand to represent New Zealand at the Scripps National Spelling Bee and the first to progress this far into the competition.

Kate says that she had no idea what the word was but figured out the ending when she learnt the word's origin was French. Kate got every letter in the word correct except the first.

This morning's Semifinal was broadcast live across United States on ESPN. Commentators of the show commented that Kate's accent had caused a lot of confusion. Yesterday in the Preliminary rounds the Judges asked for the tape of Kate's spelling of the word, eeriness to be replayed. New to the New Zealand accent, they heard her 'e's' as 'a's'.

Kate says she felt relieved when she heard the bell as the words were getting a lot more difficult the further she progressed in the competition.

"I would try and spell the words in my mind but I was struggling. They were tough. It was also tough just being on stage as it really stretches the nerves," she says.

Kate says the experience has been well worth it.

"As well as the competition, I have got to stay at an amazing hotel, The Grand Hyatt, see all the sights of Washington DC and meet loads of people," she says.

Kate says the US competition is a world away from the New Zealand National Spelling Bee which was in a school hall with 12 finalists.

Paula Weir, Kate's mother says the tension is incredible.

"Kate has done a lot better than expected and I am really proud of her. It was very impressive to get this far," she says.

Janet Lucas, Event Manager, New Zealand National Spelling Bee says the last day and a half has been an amazing journey.

"Watching Kate progress through the competition was incredible. Spellers here spend years studying to compete in this event so it was fantastic to see Kate hold her own amongst the best of them," she says.

"The suppport and encouragement from both the Scripps officials and fellow spellers and their families was also heartening. Everyone was keen to see Kate do well.


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