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“I just want to come in first place so I can win that trophy”: Meet the GTA contestants from this year’s Spelling Bee of Canada

By Alex Cyr| Photography by Joshua Best

The Spelling Bee of Canada held its 35th annual championship this past weekend in Toronto, and hundreds of pint-size brainiacs from across the country travelled here to compete for national bragging rights. We caught up with some of the top contestants from the GTA at the Word on the Street festival as they prepared for battle.


Anomioghene Medu
“I just want to come in first place so I can win that trophy”: Meet the GTA contestants from this year's Spelling Bee of Canada

Age: 12

Hometown: Brampton

Hardest word you’ve ever spelled: I’d say Murraya because of the double r, and the fact that it’s a proper noun means you can’t forget the capital letter. That or Chiroptera because you can get it mixed with chimera.

Favourite book (that’s not the dictionary): The Hardy Boys. It’s not a book you turn to for comedy, but I like it for the suspense and the action of it all.

What you want to be when you grow up: I’m still deciding, but I think being some kind of scientist would be cool. I’ve always thought being a paleontologist would be fun. My favourite dinosaur is the triceratops.

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Your biggest hero: My parents. They work so hard for me to be where I am today in my life. 


Hanita Verma
“I just want to come in first place so I can win that trophy”: Meet the GTA contestants from this year's Spelling Bee of Canada

Age: 8

Hometown: Kleinburg

Hardest word you’ve ever spelled: I don’t really know. Most of the words I’ve spelled at the regional competitions haven’t been that hard.

Favourite book (that’s not the dictionary): I’m a big reader. I’m reading The Wizard of Oz, and it has 24 chapters. My favourite is either that book or the books in the Clementine series. Those are really funny. 

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What you want to be when you grow up: I’ve always wanted to be the prime minister. But I have a few other jobs lined up: scientist, architect and storm chaser. I love reading about storms.

Your biggest hero: Justin Trudeau


Kevin Baird
“I just want to come in first place so I can win that trophy”: Meet the GTA contestants from this year's Spelling Bee of Canada

Age: 13

Hometown: Toronto

Hardest word you’ve ever spelled: Meristem. That’s a word I missed at a past spelling bee. It’s a type of plant cell. That or pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis—formerly the longest word in the dictionary. It was removed because it was an intentional attempt at creating the longest word.

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Favourite book (that’s not the dictionary): Elements by Theodore Grey. It explains all the elements in the periodic table. I’m into physics and chemistry.

What you want to be when you grow up: I want to make video games. I’m already learning how to code. I’ve downloaded a game engine and tried to make my own game. My favourite game is Minecraft.

Your biggest hero: I don’t have a biggest hero. I’m still waiting to find one.


Muhammad Fawaz Hassan 
“I just want to come in first place so I can win that trophy”: Meet the GTA contestants from this year's Spelling Bee of Canada

Age: 8, but tomorrow I turn 9

Hometown: Brampton

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Hardest word you’ve ever spelled: Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis—probably the longest word in the world.

Favourite book (that’s not the dictionary): I have a few. I really like this novel called And Then It Happened. It’s basically about these three kids who go on a bunch of adventures and make jokes that get them in trouble.

What you want to be when you grow up: An engineer.

Your biggest hero: I guess, out of all the people, I would choose myself.


Ayesha Kashan
“I just want to come in first place so I can win that trophy”: Meet the GTA contestants from this year's Spelling Bee of Canada

Age: 6

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Hometown: Scarborough

Hardest word you’ve ever spelled: Tortoiseshell.

Favourite book (that’s not the dictionary): The Elephant and Piggie books. I’ve read a lot of them with my teacher.

What you want to be when you grow up: A doctor. But before that I just want to come in first place at the spelling bee so that I can win the trophy. I would love it if it’s really big.

Your biggest hero: My mom.

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Gurseerat Labana
“I just want to come in first place so I can win that trophy”: Meet the GTA contestants from this year's Spelling Bee of Canada

Age: 13

Hometown: Brampton

Hardest word you’ve ever spelled: Probably phalanges. I got it correct, though. 

Favourite book (that’s not the dictionary): It used to be Harry Potter, but now it’s Land of Stories by Chris Colfer. He’s a really talented actor and author, and I like fantasy books.

What you want to be when you grow up: I want to do something related to law, but I’d also like to be an author because I really like creative writing at school. You can’t be all that creative with law.

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Ahaan Sah
“I just want to come in first place so I can win that trophy”: Meet the GTA contestants from this year's Spelling Bee of Canada

Age: 11

Hometown: Mississauga

Hardest word you’ve ever spelled: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. I’m pretty sure it’s a real word.

Favourite book (that’s not the dictionary): Harry Potter. I’m on the fourth book right now, and it has a lot of plot twists. It’s an up-and-down ride while you are reading.

What you want to be when you grow up: When I was a kid, I wanted to be a lot of things, like a cricket player or a YouTuber. But I’m good at acting, so now I want to be an actor like Tom Holland.

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Your biggest hero: I’m not sure I really have a hero. But I want to make my parents proud. Their anniversary is on the day of the spelling bee, so I want to win it for them.


Anjney Gupta
“I just want to come in first place so I can win that trophy”: Meet the GTA contestants from this year's Spelling Bee of Canada

Age: 12

Hometown: Brampton

Hardest word you’ve ever spelled: I can’t think of it right now, but it definitely started with an e or a c.

Favourite book (that’s not the dictionary): The Harry Potter series. I read all the books, and my favourite is the fourth one: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

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What you want to be when you grow up: A doctor. I don’t know what kind. Doctors make a lot of money, and I like to help people get better.

Your biggest hero: Probably my mom. She works really hard every day, and she does a lot of stuff for me. She helps me with everything.


Jinay Desai
“I just want to come in first place so I can win that trophy”: Meet the GTA contestants from this year's Spelling Bee of Canada

Age: 15

Hometown: Brampton

Hardest word you’ve ever spelled: Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.

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Favourite book (that’s not the dictionary): Percy Jackson. I like how they incorporated Greek mythology in there. It’s about a boy born with godlike attributes, and the author is able to exploit that to create an interesting plot.

What you want to be when you grow up: I want to be a tech entrepreneur. I’ve developed an interest in IT in the last few years, and I want to use IT to make the world a better place.

Your biggest hero: My dad. He’s really helped me with everything, and his dedication and hard work are qualities that I want to have in my life too.

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