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Alex Leckie-Zaharic did not let ''arthritis'' get in the way of him winning a major regional competition in Dunedin yesterday.
The John McGlashan College 13-year-old does not have arthritis, but it was the word he spelled correctly that won him the New Zealand Spelling Bee lower South Island regional competition.
He battled with 13 of the top year 9 and 10 spellers from schools south of Timaru for one of two places in the 2014 New Zealand Spelling Bee national final in Wellington on October 18, sponsored by School's Out.
Alex was delighted after duelling it out for several rounds with eventual runner-up, Logan Park High School pupil George Sabonadiere (13), and spelling his way to the top of the regional final.
Both he and George will represent the lower South Island at the national final.
Alex said the secret to his success was simple - books.
''I've liked books ever since I was little. I've always got a book in my hand.
''I learnt to spell through reading - I love words.''
Both were eagerly anticipating the competition in the national final, and both agreed it would be another step up from the competition they faced yesterday.
Alex said he hoped to read at least another 20 to 30 books between now and the national final, in preparation for the competition.
''Hopefully, I'll learn some words I haven't come across before.''
The pair will be among 18 of New Zealand's top spellers from five main centres and each will be vying for the $5000 cash prize and the much-coveted title of New Zealand's 10th national spelling bee champion.
The New Zealand Spelling Bee was established in 2004 and has engaged hundreds of schools and thousands of children in its quest to improve Kiwi kids' spelling.