Canadian tutor Mattea Roach on her ‘Jeopardy!’ streak and 15 minutes of fame

Canadian tutor Mattea Roach on her 'Jeopardy!' streak and 15 minutes of fame
Canadian Mattea Roach appears in an episode of Jeopardy! in a handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Jeopardy Productions, Inc.

Canadian “Jeopardy!” champion Mattea Roach has found herself at the centre of an ownership dispute.

The 23-year-old Torontonian — or is that Haligonian? — tutor is now tied for the eighth longest streak in the TV game show’s history with 13 consecutive wins, and her fellow Canadians are taking note.

“People in Nova Scotia, and then also people in Toronto — the two places that I associate myself most closely with — have been very eager to claim me as belonging more to one than the other,” said Roach, who spent the first six years of her life and some of her adolescence in Halifax.

“They don’t want to just claim that you’re from Canada if you’re from a specific city or specific province. It’s like, ‘No, she’s not just from Canada. She’s from Nova Scotia, or she’s in Toronto.'”

In reality, she belongs to both. Nova Scotia is home, she said after cracking the Top 10 list this week, but she feels deeply attached to Toronto — the city she moved to for a university degree in political science and sexual diversity studies.

She’s also spent time in Calgary and Moncton, N.B.

But she understands the “very Canadian” propensity for pride in “homegrown celebrities” and even commented on it on the quiz show while referring to the late longtime “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek.

Roach realized she had achieved national renown when she spotted an article about herself on the satirical website, “The Beaverton.”

“That, even more than the genuine media interest, was like, ‘Oh, I’ve made it,'” she said.

It’s an interesting time to be a Canadian on “Jeopardy!”, an American show with some undeniable northern ties. The show’s setting has been dubbed the Alex Trebek stage in honour of its long-running host from Sudbury, Ont.

Roach expressed some disappointment that her star turn on the show comes after Trebek died of pancreatic cancer in 2020.

“It is somewhat bittersweet and sad that (this streak) is happening after he passed, and that he is not getting to celebrate what is now by far the longest run by a Canadian contestant on the show,” Roach said.

The show also tends to sprinkle in some questions about Canada, and one of the head writers, Billy Wisse, grew up in Montreal.

That gives Roach an edge in some cases, but she said the show’s Americanness can also trip her up sometimes.

Thursday night’s show, for instance, featured an entire category about the state of California.

“I remember speaking to somebody at the ‘Jeopardy!’ team about that. And she was like, ‘Yeah, I was really confused about why you weren’t ringing in or getting in on any of those clues. But then I remembered you’re not from this country,'” Roach said.

Roach has so far won US$286,081 on the show, and has qualified for the Tournament of Champions this fall, when she’ll face some of the show’s most successful players. That includes 40-game winner Amy Schneider, whose streak ended in January, just before Roach filmed her first episodes.

“I am so excited to probably lose to her,” Roach said.

You can watch Roach try for her 14th win on “Jeopardy!” tonight on CHEK at 7:30.

Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 22, 2022.

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