Johns Hopkins Gazette: September 15, 1997

Senior Finds Himself
King For A Day

"Who is Cousteau?"

It was the answer (in the form of a question) Hopkins senior Atish Choudhury posed to the final Jeopardy! question. And on that Sept. 1 show, Choudhury bet enough money that he was right to win the game and was invited to return to the next day's show as the reigning champion.

Getting the right answer was pure intellect; getting on the show was pure luck.

Six months earlier, Choudhury called Annapolis-based WHFS-FM Radio, hoping to get on the air to voice his opinion on the news story of the day: a 60-year-old woman delivered a baby after being impregnated by artificial insemination. But by the time Choudhury, a chemistry major from Washington, D.C., finally got through to the studio, they were taking calls for Jeopardy! trials.

Wasn't what he was expecting, but what the heck?

"Which singer recently sang "All I Wanna Do Is Have Some Fun" at an army base?" the DJ asked Choudhury.

Cinch. Who is Sheryl Crow?

And off he went on the road to his TV appearance.

The next stop was an April tryout in Washington, including lessons on how to use the buzzer, mock games and then an invitation to come to Los Angeles in July to be a contestant on the show.

"It was a little nerve-racking, my whole body was shaking," says Choudhury, recalling what it was like to be on the show. "And to be honest, I don't really remember much about the game."

Well, except the part about winning $16,800.

Sadly, the next show didn't go quite as smoothly. One of his opponents had a faster buzzer reflex.

"The thing is, it's not so much whether you know the answer but if you can be the first one to ring the buzzer," he explains. "I looked pretty strange because I would ring the buzzer so violently that my whole body would jerk. It was frustrating. And a little embarrassing to watch."

That game ended disappointingly, says Choudhury. He bet almost all his day's winnings on the incorrect answer, "What was Martin Luther's 93 theses?" An aggravating mistake because on any other day he would have remembered there were 95 theses.

But with equanimity, Choudhury took his lumps, his $16,800, a pair of men's and women's Montego watches and a box full of vitamins and spent the rest of the week with his friend vacationing along the West Coast.

"It was a great week, the whole thing," says Choudhury. "It was one of those adventures you never forget."

--Leslie Rice

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