U.S. Retains World Geography Champ Title

National Geographic News
July 16, 2003

A team of students from the U.S. won the sixth National Geographic World Championship in Tampa, Florida, today. Runners-up in the 18-nation competition were Germany and France.

"We are just very relieved that we won," said U.S. team captain John Rice, (15), from Maddock, North Dakota. "We had a lot of big shoes to fill. The U.S. team has won this competion the last two times. We were under pressure to keep being the best."

Rice and team members Dallas Simons (13), from Nashville, Tennessee, and Alexander Smith (15), from Burlington, North Carolina, received medals for winning the competition. Each one of them is a previous state champion and national finalist in the U.S. National Geographic Bee.

The German team placed second in today's world championship. Its members were Julian Nitzsche (14), from Bautzen; Sebastian Norck (15), from Sonneberg; and Sebastian Wildgrube (16), from Meuro.

France came third. Its team comprised Thibault Decazes (14), from Versailles; Vincent Lafon (13), from Paris; and Antony Lee (15), from Les Ulis.

The U.S., German, and French competed against students from Argentina, Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Costa Rica, Hungary, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Singapore, and the United Kingdom in the international contest hosted by Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.

Each team comprised three students who excelled in their country's national geography competitions. In the international contest they answer questions on physical, cultural and economic geography in two levels of competition.

The competition started with all teams taking a written test and continued yesterday when they battled one another in an outdoor map-reading course. France, Germany, and the U.S. achieved the highest scores and faced off today for the championship round. They answered questions in a game-show format moderated by Alex Trebek, host of the U.S. television quiz show Jeopardy!

"We had some difficult moments, especially when at the very end, when we were ahead by only one point, we had to decide how many points we were going to risk," Rice said. "If we'd got that answer wrong it's quite possible we would have lost."

The U.S. students prepared for the world championship by sharing their "secret tips" that had enabled them to study successfully for the U.S. National Geographic Bee, Rice said.

Countries that took part in the World Championship for the first time this year were Bulgaria, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Poland and Portugal.

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