All hail Gail

February 24, 2009 in Quiz Show

gail-trimbleThere is a theory that resurfaces from time to time that there is no better tool for the promotion of an event or sport than the individual brilliance of a superstar performer. News stories grow up around their rare (maybe even freakish) abilities and, through them, the general public are thus introduced to, or reminded of the existence of, the event.

Some off-the-top-of-my-head examples of this phenomenon would include: Tiger Woods in Golf, Torvill and Dean in Ice Skating and either/both Stephen Roche and Seán Kelly, who turned Cycling into one of Ireland’s most popular sports in the 1980s.

The effect was seen in action again this week as the build-up to the final of this year’s University Challenge seemed to focus entirely on Gail Trimble, captain of the Corpus Christi College, Oxford.

Is she the cleverest contestant ever?” wondered Paul Gallagher in The Guardian as, en-route to the final, she had scored 825 of the team’s 1,235 points.  The writer also informed us that one of her opponents likened her style to “intellectual blitzkrieg”.  In the quarter-final, Corpus Christi were so dominant that they only allowed the University of Exeter 15 points – a new low-score record for the current series under Jeremy Paxman.

The final, which aired this week, produced no surprises for the hype machine. Even though Corpus Christi were taking on Manchester (champions in 2006 and 345-30 winners over Lincoln College, Oxford, in the semi-final) they prevailed on a scoreline of 275-190.  It wasn’t plain sailing as they had trailed 70-0 after 10 mins and, even in victory, this was their closest result of the year.

Being the subject of all this focus has been double-edged for Ms Trimble. As part of its report on the final, The Times quotes some Red Top opinions on her manner. “A hateful know-all”, “horse-toothed snob” and other examples of erudition. The flip-side of this is that she is already being lionized in the broadsheets.

Fancy a challenge? Want to see how you’d compare to Gail? Here are a few starters-for-10 from the final:

  1. What everyday concept did Iris Murdoch describe as “… the extremely difficult realisation that something other than oneself is real”?
  2. An unattested language from which a group of attested languages, in this case those of the Germanic, Slavic, Romance and other families, are thought to be historically derived, for what do the letters P-I-E stand?
  3. If a tap leaks a millilitre of water every second, how many 10-litre buckets will it fill completely in a day?
  4. Giving its name to an early form of capacitor, which city to the south-west of Amsterdam is home to The Netherlands’ oldest university, founded in 1575?
  5. Which of Shakespeare’s plays is the only one to be set in Vienna and concerns the city’s Duke adopting a disguise in order to observe the actions of his subjects, including his deputy Angelo?
  6. A taco terrier is a cross between a toy fox terrier and which other breed of dog, originating in a country of Latin America?
  7. Which French obstetrician, who died in 1957, gave his name to a method of childbirth involving exercises and breathing control designed to give pain relief without drugs?

Click here for answers.

1 response to All hail Gail

  1. Uh-oh.

    Turns out one of Gail’s helpers was no longer a full-time student by the time the final came around and the BBC have disqualified Corpus Christi and awarded the title to Manchester. :-(

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/7919830.stm

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