Indian-Americans sweep this year NGB

Washington: Indian-American students have swept the prestigious National Geographic Bee, bagging the top four positions of this year`s tough national competition, where US President Barack Obama played a quizmaster.

Rahul Nagvekar (14) from Texas bagged the first position, by beating 13-year-old Vansh Jain from Wisconsin at the finals of the annual competition held yesterday. Both are class eighth students. The third and fourth positions went to Varun Mahadevan from San Francisco and Raghav Ranga from Arizona respectively.

Nagvekar has won a USD 25,000 college scholarship, lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society and a trip for two to the Galapagos on an expedition aboard the National Geographic Endeavour. Second prize winner, Jain received USD 15,000 college scholarship.

13-year-old seventh-grader Mahadevan, who took third place, got USD 10,000 college scholarship, while 14-year-old eighth-grader Ranga, who bagged fourth place, took USD 1,000, an official release said.

The winning question was: "Name the Bavarian city located on the Danube River that was the legislative seat of the Holy Roman Empire from 1663 to 1806?", which Nagvekar won by correctly answering as "Regensburg". "It was a guess, a 50-50 chance. It just happened to be a good guess" Nagvekar said after the competition.

US President Barack Obama asked one question this year via video, quizzing the young contenders on their knowledge of recent events. Obama asked which Asian capital city on the Han River hosted a gathering of world leaders in March for a Nuclear Security Summit. The answer to which was "Seoul".

Obama said that studying geography is "about more than just memorising places on a map". "It`s about understanding the complexity of our world, appreciating the diversity of cultures that exist across continents and in the end, it`s about using all that knowledge to help bridge divides and bring people together," the US President said.

Nagvekar said that he started preparing for the geography bee in fourth grade and has gone to the state bee every year, placing higher each time. "I think it`s very important for people to know more about the world. That helps with world conflict. It helps people understand others better. It helps people understand why problems happen and how to solve them," Nagvekar said.

Fifty-four state and territory winners took part in the preliminary rounds of the 2012 National Geographic Bee on May 22.

The top 10 finishers in the preliminary rounds met in yesterday`s final round, which was moderated by "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek.

The six other finalists, who each won USD 500, were Anthony Stoner of Louisiana, Adam Rusak of Maryland, Karthik Karnik of Massachusetts, Gopi Ramanathan of Minnesota, Neelam Sandhu of New Hampshire and Anthony Cheng of Utah. As the name indicates three of them are Indian Americans.

The National Geographic Bee is an annual geography contest sponsored by the National Geographic Society. The bee, held every year since 1989, is open to students in the fourth through eighth grade in participating American schools.