Who Is Ken Jennings?
Ken Jennings wrote three words on his digital screen: “Who is Jones?”
Were those the right words? If that was the correct answer, he’d be a Jeopardy!
winner, something he’d dreamed about all his life. If it wasn’t, well . . . at least he had gotten to be on the game show he’d loved since he was ten years old.
It was February 24, 2004. Ken had led for most of the game, but Julia Lazarus, one of the other contestants, was close behind. If he answered wrong and she answered right, he would lose.Jeopardy!
is a quiz show that asks questions about trivia. The twist is that the “questions” are statements, and the “answers” must be phrased in the form of a question. This Jeopardy!
question was “She’s the first female track & field athlete to win medals in five different events at a single Olympics.”
Ken hadn’t watched any of the last Summer Olympics, in Sydney, Australia, in 2000. But he remembered hearing that Marion Jones, the American track star, had won a lot of events at Sydney. He was almost sure that she must be the correct answer. Just to be careful, he only wrote down her last name. Ken had played in a lot of trivia tournaments in college and knew that the safe thing to do was to write only a person’s last name. He wouldn’t want to lose because he made a mistake on a first name when he had the correct last name.
It was time to show his answer. The blue screen on his podium lit up with the words he had scrawled, “Who is Jones?”
Alex Trebek, the host of Jeopardy!
at the time, looked over at the table of judges who watch each game and make decisions if there’s a question about a contestant’s answer. Ken suddenly realized what was going on—-Jones is a very, very common last name. His answer looked like it might be just a guess. The judges could decide he hadn’t been clear enough. Then, all would be lost because he’d played it too safe.
After a pause that seemed to last forever, Trebek announced, “We’ll accept that. You’ve got $17,000 more for a $37,201 total, and you become the Jeopardy!
champion!” Ken had won his first game.
At the end of the next game, Ken won again. And again. And again. Americans tuned in every night, waiting to see if anyone or anything could trip up this master of trivia. Ken won seventy--four straight games in a row! After game seventy--five, he was sure of one thing: the answer to “He holds the longest winning streak in Jeopardy!
history” was “Who is Ken Jennings?”
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