Whitby Jeopordy queen sees her ‘Cinderella’ run end in quarter-finals

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Published March 1, 2024 at 5:42 pm

Juveria Zaheer and Ken Jennings
Juveria Zaheer and Jeopardy host Ken Jennings

Whitby’s Jeopardy queen saw her reign end Thursday night in the Tournament of Champions quarter-finals with a trick question on final jeopardy dashing her Cinderella dreams of reaching the finals.

Juveria Zaheer, a psychiatrist and researcher with CAMH and the University of Toronto, raced into the lead after the opening round with $11,400, well ahead of rivals Kevin Belle and eventual winner Luigi de Guzman, who had just $1,600. But de Guzman found his game in Double Jeopardy and climbed to within $600 of Zaheer – $23,000 to $22,400 – to set up a climatic Final Jeopardy.

Zaheer, who won the Wildcard tournament Feb. 2 to book her ticket to the championship, has been called a “comeback contest sensation” by Jeopardy executives and a “stone cold trivia assassin” by her fans and has been a sensation since losing her first time on the show last May to eight-time winner Hannah Wilson.

She returned to the contest with a record-breaking haul in a Second Chance tournament – she earned $52,100 in just one match, the first Canadian to do so – and then won the Wildcard tournament to qualify for the championship.

There was no comeback Thursday on Final Jeopardy. The three contestants were asked to name the service that opened Nov. 14, 1994 that connected Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam. Zaheer answered with ‘Chunnel,” which also opened that day, connecting England and France with a tunnel under the English Channel.

De Guzman got it right with ‘Eurostar’ and now moves on to the semi-finals with his quarter-finals winnings of $43,999.

Zaheer was left to returning to her pre-Jeopardy life and apologizing to her fans. “I am sorry to have let you down,” Zaheer said on social media, while thanking her family, friends and “nice people on the internet” for their support. “I did the best I could, and I am grateful for your support.”

Her fans were not having any of it, however.

“You didn’t let a single soul down,” said X user Masterdoge987yt. “You’re still a queen and a legend to me and many others. One game where Final Jeopardy didn’t go your way won’t change that.”

The drama of Final Jeopardy was not lost on others watching, including The Jeopardy Fan. “You had two players tonight break $20,000 going into the final and one of the most nail-biting Final Jeopardy rounds of the season. If you this is boring go watch something else.”

In the first break during the show Thursday night, Zaheer talked about her ‘Cinderella’ run (while making a NCAA basketball March Madness reference) to host Ken Jennings, saying most people “don’t usually get to be Cinderella at 41 when you’re a Mom, have a family and a job. It’s been extraordinary.”

She continued that ‘Cinderella’ theme in her post match comments. “It’s midnight for Cinderella but every moment of this experience has been the most unexpected gift of my life,” she said. “So grateful to everyone on the Jeopardy team.”

Zaheer is the third favourite to get eliminated this week, following the ouster of Wilson (by just $2) and former pro poker player Chris Pannullo, who had 21 wins and nearly $750,000 to his credit.

As Jeopardy legend, the late Alex Trebek, once famously said about the game show, “sometimes, s**t happens.”

Canadian fans of the show can now focus on Toronto set designer Ray Lalonde, another of the tournament favourites with 13 wins and $386,200 in the bank, as he takes on Melissa Klapper of Pennsylvania and Celebrity Jeopardy winner Ike Barinholtz of Chicago Monday evening.

Juveria Zaheer at her day job as a psychiatrist with the Canadian Association for Mental Health

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