A team of three American school students has won the National Geographic World Championship in Budapest, Hungary Thursday. The team from Russia came in second and Canada was third.
Looking relieved three teenagers of the United States received the golden medals in an Olympic style ceremony at the end of the National Geographic World Championship in the Palace of the Arts in Budapest.
They received them after a nerve wrecking hour, which included burning questions on the capital of Slovakia, an egg-laying mammal, and questionable election practices in Zimbabwe.
14-year old Jesse Weinberg from Coral Gables in Florida said he could not believe his team managed to win the championship. "I am very happy to be here and it is very exciting to represent my country. I am very ecstatic; I don't think it set in yet. But we are very happy and we are very proud to be Americans I guess," he said.
Like his two teammates, Jesse wants to start a career in geography, perhaps in politics.
It is the fifth time the U.S. has won the National Geographic World contest, despite a recent survey showing that American youngsters know less about geography than most of their foreign counterparts.
The United States Ambassador to Budapest, George Walker, told VOA News the outcome of Thursday's battle shows not all hope is lost. "I think there is always room for improvement. But this [victory] is encouraging because we hear a lot of criticism about the education in the United States… But this suggests that we do perhaps not so badly as some people say," he said.
Less impressed with the American victory was the Russian team, which came in second.
The two boys and one girl wearing silver medals found it difficult to smile. 15-year old Ivan Prokhorov from Murmansk, explained why Russia should have won. "From one hand I am happy because it is the best result in Russian history. But from the other hand I feel upset a little bit, because we could be the first. Because we are intelligent enough to win this competition but something happened, I don't know what," he said.
However American television personality Alex Trebek, who presents the quiz show Jeopardy, said all teams that competed in the championship will have a great future. "The students are interested. Their parents are very interested in seeing their children do well. And so they get good training," he said. "These are the future geographers and discovers, so they are special and that is why they do so well."
Mr. Trebek, who is also a board member of the educational foundation of the non-profit National Geographic Society, which organized the meeting, hopes the championship in Hungary encouraged Americans to look beyond their borders.
This is necessary, he says, because many people in the United States are ignorant of world geography and world history.