Amy Schneider on her whirlwind 'Jeopardy!' To run

She seemed unstoppable, but on Wednesday, it happened. After 40 wins, Amy Schneider, the “Jeopardy!” champion whose recall of informat...

She seemed unstoppable, but on Wednesday, it happened. After 40 wins, Amy Schneider, the “Jeopardy!” champion whose recall of information often seemed faster than a search engine, was defeated.

Schneider finished with the second-longest streak in game history and $1.4 million in total earnings. She was beaten by Rhone Talsma, a 29-year-old librarian from Chicago, who answered the Final Jeopardy clue correctly while Schneider did not. His face after his victory was one of absolute shock. (He said in an interview Wednesday that he thought the loss was inevitable because of Schneider’s record.)

Schneider, 42, an engineering manager who lives in Oakland, Calif., went through a whirlwind of a few monthsfulfilling a longtime dream of being on the show and becoming a public figure as she rocketed to game show fame.

As a transgender woman, she faced bigotry online, to respond to him graciously on social media; she also received a flood of encouragement and affirmations from those who were thrilled to see a trans person succeeding so powerfully on television.

In an interview on Wednesday, she talked about her last game and her run on “Jeopardy!” meant for her. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

Do you have an overwhelming emotion right now, or is it a mix of both?

It’s definitely a mix. A lot of those are emotions I had back then, but the one that’s really different is that my fans on Twitter and everything are going to be sad. And that irritates me.

Take me back to the beginning of this game. Do you remember how you felt?

You know, I had a feeling about that day, for some reason. You wouldn’t really think it looking at last week’s scores, but once I got past Matt Amodio there was like motivation – I could feel it slipping away. You know, Ken’s record still seems so far away. And the fatigue of this recording was really starting to add up. I couldn’t even explain it to myself, but I could just feel that something was slipping a little, even though I was trying to fight it.

How many games did you play that day?

It was the third. It was just after lunch. And another thing that I kind of felt like was the Rhone. Ken would often say how when he was finally defeated, he was the person who was just friendly and wanted out, wasn’t intimidated by him. This was definitely the case with the Rhône. And he was also really a fun guy to hang out with. And I thought, well, if it had to be someone, I’m glad it was him.

What was the turning point of this game?

There was a clue that we both knew the answer to, and he beat me to the buzzer, and then it gave him the Daily Double. And he – I think rightly so – made the bold move and bet it all to really win and it paid off for him. And once he got that Daily Double, I knew that, at the very least, it would come down to Final Jeopardy.

Guide me through this final peril. What do you think of the category (Countries of the World)?

I felt good in the category. Geography has always been a strong subject for me. And then the clue popped up, and it just didn’t come to me. And it was very frustrating.

[The clue: The only nation in the world whose name in English ends in an “H,” it’s also one of the 10 most populous.]

I remember my mind as it traveled the world. I was like, “India; no. Pakistan; no. Nepal; no.” And then it continued and I was right there next to Bangladesh and I didn’t understand.

Many times during this run you have been totally safe for Final Jeopardy. So that was a bit unusual, right?

Yeah, it had happened a few times before, but not anytime recently. And so I kind of forgot what that fear and that kind of pressure felt like.

How did you feel thinking it was over?

I mean, it was tough. Play “Jeopardy!” was the most fun I’ve ever had and I didn’t want it to end. I knew it would take time, but it was hard to realize that the time had finally come. That said, there was also some relief. One of the first thoughts I had was, well, I don’t need to make up any more anecdotes. And that was a lot, going out of town every week, and it was just nice to be like, OK, I can just go back to my normal life with Genevieve. [Schneider’s girlfriend].

I can only imagine how taxing it was mentally and emotionally. Describe how you felt after a five-game taping day.

Correct Finished. I would call Genevieve and tell her what had happened, then I would either go back to the hotel room or the airport, depending on the day, and just sit there, stay there and do nothing. Not thinking, not reading on my phone, like nothing happened for an hour each time.

What did you learn from this experience, first in terms of trivialities, then in terms of your life and who you are?

Well, definitely Bangladesh. I can tell you that. It’s mostly around some of the things I missed. Like the Field Museum the other day [the correct response to Final Jeopardy] – it was frustrating.

And in terms of your life more broadly?

I think the main thing I took away from it was being okay with myself, how I look, how I present myself to the world. I’ve been openly trans for just under five years now, and there are still lingering worries and dysphoria and things like that.

Just to have so much positive feedback, so much support and so much acceptance, it allowed me — in the end — to watch myself on TV and say to myself, “Oh, you know, she’s pretty, she’s fun, what a friendly person. And I’ve never been able to see myself that way before.

What kind of comments have you heard from trans people “Jeopardy! the fans or just transgender people in general who have contacted you?

Just a ton of support. It’s been really great and really meaningful. I think it’s just as great, just as meaningful, to hear from parents, grandparents, relatives of trans people and to hear either that they understand their trans relatives better, or, often also, that I eased their fear for their trans loved ones, seeing that trans people can be successful and won’t be as limited as they may have feared.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Amy Schneider on her whirlwind 'Jeopardy!' To run
Amy Schneider on her whirlwind 'Jeopardy!' To run
Newsrust - US Top News
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