Young debaters and quizzers from Chennai ruled the roost at the Hanoi Global Round of The World Scholar’s Cup last week. The cup, in its 10th year, had children from over 50 countries, in multiple quizzing, debate and writing events.
A debating trio, comprising 14-year-old Vrinda Gopal, 11-year-old Aadi Sai and 13-year-old Nishka Srivastava, came first among 700 international teams. Thirteen-year-olds Tejas Narain and Adam Libby, and 12-year-old Siddharth Thomas came 7th globally, topping among South Asian teams.
Adam Libby was also the overall individual champion out of 2,100 participants in his category.
Thirteen-year-olds Sibhi Aravindan and Brahadeshwar Bhupathy also fared well, as did Jacob Vacha, Pritivi Chhabria and Abbas Parpia, a team of 16-year-olds that ranked 8th in South Asia and 23rd globally.
The children were part of nine teams that trained and travelled together for the contest. Studying in different classes at different schools, they came together at A to Zee Creativity for classes after school hours, week after week, to prepare. Having studied together since January — first for the regional round in Chennai, then targeting the global rounds in Hanoi, and now eyeing the final Tournament of Champions at Yale — they naturally have a treasure trove of anecdotes and learning experiences.
Having beat hundreds to be crowned top debaters, Gopal, Sai and Srivastava seem pretty surprised.
They say they weren’t even the top debating team during training. And then, of course, there were teething issues. “We didn’t really gel well at first as all three of have pretty dominating personalities,” explains Gopal.
Srivastava backs her up by pointing out, “When we started out, we would spend 10 minutes of the 15 allotted to us, just fighting. But we eventually got our act together and now work pretty well.” A point that Sai corroborates by stating that their first victory was in their very first round, against last year’s champion team from Japan. “That helped us feel less nervous than before,” he says.
Libby, Narain and Thomas, for their part, say that the training sessions were a way to spend time together, as they don’t all go to the same school any more. For the others, the highlight was getting to meet and befriend youngsters from other countries.
Chhabria and Vacha describe in detail the Scholar’s Balls, where participants were to dress in traditional attire, interact with each other, and dance their shoes off.
“It was all about building teamwork and meeting people,” says Aravindan. Bhupathy agrees, and confesses that he wasn’t even sure if he would be uninhibited enough to make friends, at first. The two have made fast friends from Australia and Canada, as well as with youngsters across the country. “We have all added each other on Facebook and Instagram,” they beam.