Spelling Bee Champs: Where Are They Now?

ByABC News via GMA logo
May 31, 2006, 11:42 PM

June 1, 2006 — -- David Tidmarsh savored his time in the spotlight after winning the 2004 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Tidmarsh, who was 14 at the time, received stacks of mail from around the world, shook hands with President Bush, and played an unscripted gag on David Letterman's show.

As Letterman tested the champ's spelling skills, Tidmarsh pretended to faint. Let it be known that Tidmarsh was not the speller who actually fainted on stage -- that was the 2004 runner-up, 13-year-old Akshay Buddiga.

In an unrivaled moment of spelling bee drama, Buddiga was mulling the word "alopecoid" -- meaning vulpine, like a fox -- when he wavered and suddenly fell to the stage in a heap.

A gasp arose from the crowd. Had the pressure gotten too much for the boy? After all, his brother, Pratyush, had taken home the 2002 crown for spelling the word "prospicience," meaning foresight. They would be the first sibling champs in the history of the bee.

Unbelievably, Buddiga rose from the ground a moment later and successfully spelled the word.

"After I got back up, I didn't really care about spelling it anymore. I just wanted to get it over with," Buddiga said.

Paige Kimble, the director of the National Spelling Bee and the 1981 champ, said of Buddiga's fall: "That was the most amazing moment I saw in a bee."

Kimble has her own spelling bee comeback story. In 1980, she lost the championship to Jacques Bailly on the word "glitch," a fault or defect in a system or machine. The next year, she returned and redeemed herself, emerging victorious with the word "sarcophagus," the stone container where a coffin and mummy are placed.

She later got a license plate inscribed with the word "GLITCH."

Spelling bees weren't always cool, as the 1971 champ, Jonathan Knisely, pointed out in the 2002 Oscar-nominated documentary, "Spellbound."

"I don't think [winning] really helped me in my love life -- my nascent love life. I mean, something like that could be considered something of a liability."