Belfast Telegraph

Queen's University bright sparks win through to quarter-finals of television's toughest challenge

By Rebecca Black

More than 30 years since they last claimed victory, Queen's University Belfast has reached the quarter finals of University Challenge.

Queen's last won the notoriously tough TV quiz show back in 1981.

In a strong second round performance shown on BBC2 on Monday evening, Queen's looked well on their way to revisiting glory, trouncing Downing College, Cambridge, by almost 80 points with the final score of 210-135.

There was never any doubt over who would win the match, with Queen's taking an early lead, answering correctly a wide variety of questions, ranging from literature and chemistry to geography.

Lurgan medical student Gareth Gamble particularly shone.

His sheer breadth of knowledge even astonished infamously stern host Jeremy Paxman who, when the contestant correctly identified the recipe for a Victoria Sponge cake exclaimed: "How did you know that?".

Gareth simply smiled in response but confessed to the Belfast Telegraph yesterday it was luck.

"That was a complete guess. I just thought what could you make with flour, eggs and butter, and Victoria Sponge was the first thing that came to mind," he said.

"I'm not particularly fond of Victoria Sponges, although after this I maybe will be."

The final year medic said the opportunity was a "once in a lifetime experience".

"I saw it advertised on the Queen's website almost a year ago for a series of heats and thought I might as well have a go, what's the worst that could happen."

Around 80 students applied to get on the team and were shortlisted through quiz rounds.

As well as getting through selection for the Queen's team, the group itself had to battle with 130 other university teams from across the UK to get to be one of the 28 that make it onto TV.

The team is captained by Irish theatre PhD student Joseph Greenwood and also includes history student Suzanne Cobain from Bangor and Alexander Green from Lytham, studying at Queen's for a PhD in plasma physics.

Gareth said the team decided each member should focus on their strengths while preparing, rather than each of them trying to learn everything.

He added that while Paxman appears stern on the programme, always urging contestants to hurry with their answers, he was very friendly when he was off-camera.

Current Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry, who represented Queen's on University Challenge in 1994 said: "I want to congratulate the Queen's University team for a well-fought victory."

Queen's will appear in the quarter finals of the BBC2 quiz show after Christmas.

Selection is currently underway for the next Queen's team. Any QUB students interested in applying should contact Dominic Doherty on d.t.doherty@qub.ac before 1pm on Thursday.

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