WASHINGTON (AP) — Gaining confidence as he nailed questions about obscure island chains, bodies of water, global trade and culture, 12-year-old Sathwik Karnik cruised to victory Wednesday in the 2013 National Geographic Bee.
Sathwik, of Plainville, Mass., correctly named Chimborazo as the mountain in Ecuador that represents the farthest point from the Earth's center to clinch the title. He got all five questions right in his one-on-one duel with the runner-up, 13-year-old Conrad Oberhaus of Lincolnshire, Ill.
Sathwik pushed ahead of Conrad on the second question, correctly naming Baotou as the largest city in China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, which is home to one of the world's largest deposits of rare-earth elements. While Conrad didn't miss another question, Sathwik never relinquished the lead.
It was Sathwik's first appearance in the National Geographic Bee finals — but he might have made it earlier if not for his 15-year-old brother, Karthik, who beat him twice in the Massachusetts state bee. Karthik finished 5th in the national bee in 2011 and sixth in 2012.
"I'm just shocked," Sathwik said. "I didn't think I could win. I thought I would end up somewhere in the top 10."
When her boys were in elementary school, Sathwik's mother, Rathma Karnik, had them play games with an atlas instead of hide-and-seek, asking them to be the first to find a city, body of water or landmark.
Rathma and her husband, Vishwanath, who both work in the software industry, emigrated from near Mangalore, India, in 2002. Indian-American children have dominated both the geography bee and the Scripps National Spelling Bee in recent years. Vishwanath said the trend can be attributed to coming from a country of 1.2 billion people.
"That brought us the competitive spirit," he said. "If we don't work hard and put forth our best effort, we can't succeed in this world."