Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Sky Sports presenter is new Countdown host

Jeff Stelling

Sky Sports presenter Jeff Stelling was unveiled today as the new host of much-loved quiz show Countdown.

Mr Stelling, who became a household name following his stint on Soccer Saturday on Sky, will be joined on the programme by Oxford University-educated maths genius Rachel Riley.

The duo will front the new series of the cult quiz when it hits the screens in January.

Mr Stelling was awarded Sports Broadcaster of the Year by the Sports Journalists' Association for the third successive time earlier this year.

He said: "I am delighted to be hosting Countdown and follow in the footsteps of such great broadcasters as Richard Whiteley, Des Lynam and Des O'Connor."

Rachel Riley, 22, graduated from Oriel College, Oxford with a Masters Degree in Mathematics.

She fought off stiff competition from more than 1,000 applicants to step into the shoes of Countdown legend Carol Vorderman.

For the Countdown auditions, Riley and other applicants had to conduct an interview and were tested on their maths skills.

She was then shortlisted alongside five others for a screen test in Leeds where candidates had to put up several letter selections and tackle various maths games at the numbers board.

Riley said: "This is the best graduate job in the world.

"There's only one cool maths job around and I was lucky enough to get it so I'm absolutely thrilled."

Helen Warner, Head of Channel 4 Daytime, said: "I'm very excited that Jeff and Rachel will be picking up the Countdown baton from 2009.

"They make a great team and I feel certain that our much-loved words and numbers game will go from strength to strength with them at the helm."

Countdown was the first show to be broadcast on Channel 4 when the station was launched in November 1982.

Vorderman and previous presenter Des O'Connor recorded their final programme earlier this month which is due to air in December.

Cambridge graduate Vorderman has spent 26 years on the show.

Former presenter Des O'Connor, announced he was to step down in July.

He joined the words and numbers quiz in January 2007 and helped the series celebrate its 25th birthday in November last year.

He replaced Des Lynam as the anchor, who stepped in following the death of the much-loved Richard Whiteley.

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