Indian-American Avi Gupta of Oregon wins $100,000 grand prize at ‘Jeopardy! Teen Tournament’

Jeopardy! photo 

Avi Gupta of Portland, Oregon won the “Jeopardy! Teen Tournament,” June 28, taking home the $100,000 grand prize. Gupta, who recently graduated from Catlin Gabel School in Southwest Portland, won the two-day final by correctly answering the question in the “Final Jeopardy” category -“Places of Lore.”

Although all three contestants – Gupta and Ryan Presler of Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Lucas Miner of Miami, Florida – answered “What is Camelot?” to the question: “The first mention of this locale is in Chretien de Troyes’ 12th century poem, ‘Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart,” Gupta emerged the winner of the two-day final, with a combined high score of $50,800. He earned total of $24,200 on June 27, followed by $26,600 on June 28.

“It still feels unreal, and I honestly can’t express how grateful and fortunate I feel to have had this opportunity,” Gupta said in a statement. “Jeopardy! has always been a huge part of my life and my family’s life; it’s a special bonding connection with my grandma, who is a huge fan.”

Eighth-grader Presler finished second and won $50,000, while Miner, a high school junior, placed third and won $25,000.

“Since I had the advantage of having just played a brutal semifinal round going into the finals, my strategy was just to keep up the momentum,” news reports quoted Gupta as saying. “Even though my knowledge base hadn’t changed, the semifinal experience was invaluable, and I felt like a better, more experienced competitor.”

The teen plans to plans to use the money for college at Columbia University and for his nonprofit Project32 which, according to his LinkedIn page, “seeks to eradicate dental disease by proving underprivileged children with access to dental hygiene products.” According to a press release issued by the Oregon Health & Science University, Gupta, a student researcher there, has also pledged to use his prize money to support resrach on pancreatic cancer done at the university. After learning of host Alex Trebek’s pancreatic cancer diagnosis, Gupta decided to donate to pancreatic cancer research efforts at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute in honor of Trebek.

“Alex Trebek was a big part of my childhood — he always seemed like the smartest guy on TV,” the OSHU press release quoted Gupta as saying. “It was an honor to meet him, and I’d like to support the amazing research being done here at OHSU to help fight this disease. My hope is that it will raise awareness in our community for early detection research and support of treatment initiatives.”

To say that Gupta had a less than dramatic entry to the final would be an understatement. In the June 26 semi final round, Gupta was declared a finalist after a nail-biting tie-breaker. To the question: “Types of it you could find in Boston Harbor on December 16, 1773 included Souchong and Bohea,” Gupta correctly answered: “What is tea.” “Tea is right, and you are a finalist,” host Alex Trebek said. “What a finish.”

Gupta faced Jackson Jones, a junior from Louisville, Kentucky in the tie-breaker. Previously on the Final Jeopardy! Round for the “19th Century Literary Characters,” the clue was: “Hard and sharp as flint...he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.” As the music stopped and the answers were revealed, all three players correctly answered Ebenezer Scrooge. Jones and Gupta, who were tied, both bet their entire winnings, bringing both of their totals to $39,200. “To be honest, ladies and gentlemen,” Trebek said, “I can’t recall the last time we had to go to a tie-breaker in a tournament.”

But along with impressing everyone with his fast answers and his win, he didn’t appear to lhave lost his nerve or his charm. When asked to say a few words about his participation in the tournament, Gupta said that some people had asked him why he wanted to compete on “Jeopardy!”, at a time when, as he said, “any of these answers can be Googled. “Facts are the building blocks of all opinions and all beliefs,” Gupta said. “And for that reason, I think it’s really important to know them.” Trebek then asked Gupta to trade places with him. “I’ll be the contestant,” a smiling Trebek said. “You be the host.” But after a fraction of the second, the two assumed their original spots and the contest began. In a video posted on the Jeopardy! Website, Gupta’s mother, Nandita Gupta said that although her heart was “beating a 100 miles an hour,” all she wanted was her son to “have an wholesome experience.” The win she said, “was the cherry on the top.”

Gupta joins a host of Indian-American students who have excelled in various competitions in the past year. Last year, then Brown University freshman Dhruv Gaur won the $100,000 College Jeopardy quiz . In May, Texas Teen Nihar Janga won top honors at National Geographic GeoBee and seven Indian-Americans were part of the octochamps at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

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