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Bristol University reaches University Challenge final for the first time in its history

University Challenge finalists - Lifted Entertainment

By Milan Perera, News Writer

In an exhilarating showdown of intellect and knowledge, University of Bristol has secured a spot in the final of University Challenge for the first time in its history.

Displaying exceptional quizzing prowess, the Bristol team emerged victorious in the semifinal against University of Southampton, cementing their status as one of the most formidable contenders in the tournament.

The final scores for the much-anticipated semifinal read 200–70 securing a comfortable win for University of Bristol. They will be meeting University of Durham in the final which will be broadcast on May 29.

It is a remarkable coincidence that University of Bristol and University of Durham who kicked off the popular quiz show for 2022/2023 on August 29, 2022 should meet again in the final. The final will also mark the last appearance of the quizmaster Jeremy Paxman who is stepping down after 28 years at the helm.

The quizmaster Jeremy Paxman will step down after 28 years at the helm - Wikimedia Commons 

Bristol team, which has an average age of 21, is made up of captain Tess Richardson (BSc Chemistry), Jacob McLaughlin (BSc Economics and Mathematics), Sam Kehler (Medicine) and Alejandro Ortega (MSci Physics and Philosophy).

University of Bristol University Challenge team - Tess Richardson

Although Bristol has made several quarter-finals (and one final in a Christmas special featuring famous alumni), but has never made to a semifinal. The win in the semifinal is an important milestone for University of Bristol as this marks the first time they have reached a final of the show.

Bristol team showcased their depth of knowledge across a wide range of subjects, even leaving the quizmaster Jeremy Paxman impressed. From history to science, literature to mathematics, they demonstrated an unwavering command over an array of disciplines. However, they seemed to be in a spot of bother answering questions on religion and music as they failed to recognise several religious symbols and classical music excerpts.

Captain of the Bristol team, Tess Richardson, led from the front with composure and poise. Her exceptional quizzing skills and the love for University Challenge is well documented as she said to have watched many University Challenge episodes several times.

She said:

‘I've always been a fan of the show and throughout lockdown found myself going through old episodes on YouTube with my flatmates, often watching multiple episodes a day. It was my flatmates that suggested I apply, so I did. I didn’t even expect to get though to the second round of trials, so you can imagine my shock on receiving the email offering me captaincy of the team!’

Unfortunately for University of Southampton, this marks the end of their journey for this year as they never recovered from the initial setbacks in this high-stake fixture.

Despite their narrow defeat against Durham in the opening encounter, Bristol capitalised on the repechage by beating Oriel College, Oxford and Queen's University Belfast on their way to the quarterfinals where they beat University College London with a comfortable margin of 205 – 70 to secure a place in the semifinals.

Starter For 10 features University of Bristol in the final of University Challenge - IMDB

Although this is the first time University of Bristol reached a final of University Challenge, in popular culture, the 2006 movie, Starter For 10 starring Benedict Cumberbatch, James McAvoy and Alice Eve, featured University of Bristol in the final of University Challenge against Queens' College, Cambridge.

Professor Evelyn Welch, the Vice-Chancellor at the University of Bristol wished ‘this wonderfully talented team all the luck in the world.’

Professor Evelyn Welch, Vice Chancellor at the University of Bristol sends her best wishes to the team - University of Bristol

As they step onto the grand stage of the final, the quizzing quartet carries the expectations of the entire University, ready to leave their own mark on the nation’s most popular quiz show.

University Challenge final, featuring University of Bristol and University of Durham will be televised on Monday, May 29 at 8.30pm on BBC Two and BBC iPlayer.