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US quiz contestant tops £1m mark

A contestant on US quiz show Jeopardy! has won over $1m, making him the most successful contestant in the show's 20 years on air.
Software engineer Ken Jennings, 30, from Salt Lake City, won his 30th straight contest on the programme.

Contestants have to provide questions for answers provided by the host, and Mr Jennings has provided more than 1,000 questions in the past month.

His total earnings currently stand at $1,004,960 (£540,908).

'Jeopardy!' star tops $1 million in 30-game run

July 14, 2004

BY MISHA DAVENPORT Staff Reporter Advertisement

Here's a "Jeopardy!" clue you can probably answer: He's the envy of game-show watchers everywhere.

The question is: Who is Ken Jennings?

The 30-year-old software engineer from Salt Lake City marked his 30th consecutive appearance on "Jeopardy!" Tuesday with a big win that brought his total earnings on the show over the $1 million mark -- a whopping $1,004,960, to be precise.

The previous record holder was Tom Walsh, who managed a seven-day run with $184,900 in winnings on the show in January.

Jennings is making the most of a change in ''Jeopardy!'' rules. To mark the start of its 20th season last September, the quiz show lifted its five-game limit for winners and allowed them to keep going until they lose.

Jennings has averaged more than $33,000 per episode and has correctly answered more than 1,000 questions on everything from rock music ("Who is Kurt Cobain?") to opera ("What is Madame Butterfly?").

He credits his streak to a curious mind, good memory and astute buzzer technique.

''A lot of it is just God-given memory that I can't take any credit for,'' he said. ''I've always been interested in a lot of different fields. It's not just that I'm a computer engineer and all I care about is computers."

A Seattle native who grew up in South Korea -- his father works for an international law firm in Seoul -- Jennings watched ''Jeopardy!'' on the U.S. Armed Forces TV network and thought to himself, ''Hey, maybe you could go on 'Jeopardy!' You're not half bad at it.''

After years of toying with the idea, he finally got ''fed up with being wishy-washy,'' he said, and made a road trip to Los Angeles to audition. When he was invited on the show, friends and family predicted big things.

In addition to increasing his bank account, Jennings' winning streak also has generated more viewer interest than when longtime "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek shaved off his signature mustache in 2001. The New York Times recently reported that ratings on the show -- a Merv Griffin creation that debuted in 1964 -- have gone up 28 percent since Jennings made his first appearance on June 2.

He's having fun with his fame, appearing Monday on "Good Morning America" and on David Letterman's show, where he delivered a top 10 list of ways to irritate Trebek. ("Buzz in without using your hands.")

As for what he'll do with his winnings, Jennings said he expects to invest the majority of his earnings, but wouldn't rule out a few splurges like a trip to Europe.

The self-described movie buff came up with at least one wrong answer when his wife, Mindy, asked him that same question.

"I told her it's all going to DVDs. I don't think she thought that was too funny," Jennings said.

Contributing: AP

Ken Jennings

Age: 30

Hometown: Salt Lake City

Education: Jennings graduated with a double major in computer science and English from Brigham Young University.

Who signs his smaller checks: Jennings develops software for CHG Cos., a national health care recruiting and staffing company.

Sharing the wealth: Jennings' wife Mindy, his 18-month-old son Dylan and a dog named Bango. Jennings also has pledged 10 percent of his earnings to the Mormon Church.

Exotic locations for $200: Jennings grew up in Seoul, South Korea, and Seattle. He also spent two years as a missionary in Spain with the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints.

I would totally spend it all on DVDs. :P

This one has a picture of him and tips for hopefuls: http://www.usatoday.com/life/television/news/2004-07-14-jeopardy-study-guide_x.htm
Other elements of his success might serve as tips for Jeopardy! hopefuls:

-Study weak categories. "I finally learned all the presidents. I'd never known them in the right order," says Jennings, who was quizzed by his wife, Mindy. That helped with a category about presidents and world events.

-Employ memory devices. Jennings has used mnemonics, visual or word-related aids to trigger memory.

-Relax. "If I find myself overthinking or thinking about the timing on my thumb, that's when I get beat or get something wrong. If I just sort of let it flow, I'm doing great."

-Trust your instincts. "Sometimes when I'm listening to the question, I won't know the answer but I'll know that I know it. It's somewhere in there. I'll buzz in and then I have a few seconds to try to dig it out."

''When we changed the rule, we declared that the sky's the limit for Jeopardy! champions, and boy, oh boy, has Ken certainly proven that true,'' said host Alex Trebek.
from http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/living/people/9147992.htm

USA Today likes pictures. http://www.usatoday.com/life/television/news/2004-07-14-jeopardy-main_x.htm has a good one of Alex and Ken together.


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