US teens beat teams from Canada, India to win international geography bee

Teenagers from Minnesota, Wisconsin and New Hampshire bested competitors from 17 other countries to give the U.S. its sixth title at National Geographic’s biennial geography championships for schoolchildren.

Asha Jain, Gopi Ramanathan and 14-year-old Neelam Sandhu edged their counterparts from Canada and India in Wednesday’s final round of the National Geographic World Championship in St. Petersburg, Russia. Canada took second place by narrowly beating India in a tiebreaker round.

The U.S. trio won by correctly identifying the country whose flag has six small stars representing the mainland and its five offshore islands as Equatorial Guinea.

The U.S., Canadian and Indian teams made the finals by accumulating the highest scores during Sunday’s preliminary activities, which included a scavenger hunt-like tour of the western Russia city, and on Monday’s written team test.

Team USA has won the competition six of the 11 times it has been held, including the first competition in London in 1993. Russia won the most recent competition, which was held in 2011 at Google’s headquarters near San Francisco, and Canada took first place in 2009.

With Wednesday’s win, 13-year-old Asha Jain one-upped her 15-year-old brother, Vansh, who advanced to the U.S.’s National Geography Bee finals when he was in sixth, seventh and eighth grade, taking second overall in 2012.

“This is like a win for the whole family,” their mother, Manisha Jain, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by phone. “We’re all very happy because my son wanted to go to the world championship but was never picked.”

She said for the past month, her daughter spent eight to 10 hours studying for the competition.

“Sanjeev (Asha’s father) told her if she wins the world championship she gets an iPhone,” Manisha Jain said.

Gopi Ramanathan, the U.S. team’s 15-year-old captain, told the St. Cloud Times, of Minnesota, that the international competition was unlike any previous geography bee in which he participated.

“We had to take 10 pictures around St. Petersburg that we thought identified the culture of the city,” Ramanathan said. “There’s nothing like that in the national geo bee.”

“Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek moderated the final round of the competition, which had the format of a game show.