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'Twice in a lifetime opportunity': Ontario woman to compete in Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions


Juveria Zaheer used to watch “Jeopardy!” a lot with her family when she was a little girl. She followed Ken Jennings’ historical winning streak in 2004 and considers the late Alex Trebek as one of the most famous Canadians out there. Now, she’s competing in the Tournament of Champions.

Hailing from Whitby, Ont., the 41-year-old psychiatrist and associate professor’s journey on the trivia show actually started over a year ago. In that first episode, which aired in May 2023, she competed against Hannah Wilson, who defeated Zaheer during her initial appearance of her eight-game winning streak.

“She is just unbelievable, and the first half of the game, I was like, ‘Oh no, this is terrible.’ I felt my heart beating in my ears. I felt like I wanted to sink through the floor – nothing was going right,” Zaheer told CTV News Toronto.

“I think that because everything happened so fast, I sort of focused on learning as much as I could, learning as much content, but didn’t think as much about like, ‘What does this mean to me? And how is this going to feel? And how do I stay calm?’”

But, once that game was over, Zaheer didn’t lose hope – she started to prepare for the off-chance that she would get called back to the show.

“There was a part of me that thought like, ‘You know, Juveria, you played pretty well. Is there a chance they might ask you back?’” Zaheer said, adding she tried learning as much as she could in the interim.

“It’s such a once in a lifetime, or twice in a lifetime, opportunity that I thought, ‘If there’s a small chance I’m going to get called back for a Second Chance [Tournament], I’m going to be ready, and I’m gonna give it my all.’”

The mother of two said she read constantly, always pushing herself to learn about new things. And, it paid off. Last Halloween, she said she was called back to the show – something she was “extremely” excited about and now felt less scared for.

“When I got out there, I remember having this feeling come over me of like, you can win or lose your bearings but you’re doing the best you can. You’re being brave and you are having fun,” Zaheer said.

“My daughters were there, my two girls, and my husband were there, and it was the first time that they had ever seen me play and so I just remember thinking, ‘Be brave for your girls and show them what you can do.’”

Zaheer won, earning a two-day final total of US$70,800 (the highest score of all Second Chance victors). Plus, in her first game of the finals, Zaheer set three single-game highs for the season, including 32 correct responses and a Daily Double total of US$20,000.

After weeks of winning, Zaheer secured her position in the upcoming Tournament of Champions – which starts broadcasting this Friday – after winning the quiz game’s Champions Wild Card tournament and the US$100,000 prize.

Whitby's Juveria Zaheer at the Jeopardy! stage. (Supplied)

“Everything happened really fast. My first episode aired on Dec. 20, and so before that, I had never won a game of “Jeopardy!”” Zaheer said. “I feel like I’ve been in Culver City more than I’ve been in Whitby, in a sense, in the last few months but it’s been such an adventure, for sure.”

While Zaheer has been excited by her second chance on the show, she said the most important thing is her representation on the screen and the example she sets for her two daughters, Hana and Zara.

“I think it was important to me to be able to represent for women and women of colour, who tend not to show up on the “Jeopardy!” stages often, and to represent for moms too,” Zaheer said.

“I tell [my] daughters that anything worth doing has a chance of failure. I lost on “Jeopardy!,” my brother was an amazing player but lost on “Survivor,” [my] daughters have seen two family members lose in front of millions of people, but what we hope it’s taught them is that anything worth doing is also worth failing at, and all you can do is be brave, be proud, and try your best.”

The Tournament of Champions starts airing Feb. 23 with Zaheer set to appear in the Feb. 29 episode. Top Stories

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