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University alumna becomes 3-time ‘Jeopardy!’ champion

University alumna becomes 3-time ‘Jeopardy!’ champion

University alumna becomes 3-time ‘Jeopardy!’ champion
August 04
12:00 2022

Emily Fiasco, 33, stands behind her podium in wait after entering her final answer. The iconic TV theme plays as her opponent, the reigning “Jeopardy!” champion, finalizes his own response.

“I remember just thinking ‘Okay, this is it. Here’s my one episode,’” Emily said. “I already felt like I was done.”

Moments later, host Mayim Bialik reveals Emily’s correct answer resulted in her win, establishing her as the new “Jeopardy!” champion. Later that day, Emily would further cement her winning streak for two additional episodes, winning a total of nearly $88,000.

“It was just such a surprise – it was so sudden,” Emily said. “I just wanted to win one to be able to say I was ‘Jeopardy!’ champion, but after my first game, everything went so fast. I really didn’t have time to process until the day was all over.”

Emily is a longtime fan of the show and began watching it with her dad, a fellow trivia fan, as a young girl. She later began auditioning for “Jeopardy! National College Championship” as a university sophomore. Over the span of 14 years, the alumna periodically tried out for “Jeopardy!” a total of five times until she was selected this past season.

“I just always felt like I would be good at it,” Emily said. “Most people at home who watch it a lot are like, ‘Oh, I know the answers,’ and are yelling stuff out. I just really wanted to see if I would be good at this or if I’d melt under the pressure.”

The St. Louis area music teacher learned she was officially chosen as a contestant in April after receiving a phone call. With only one month to prepare for her May taping, Emily said it felt like an exciting rush to prepare for the show. Despite the stress involved with studying, scheduling flights and finding babysitters, Emily said she was constantly thrilled during the weeks leading up to her “Jeopardy!” premiere.

“It was kind of like a whirlwind,” Emily said. “I remember just being so excited, but I couldn’t really tell anybody. So people probably thought I was a big weirdo for about a month, just kind of floating around and walking with a smile on my face without saying anything.”

Emily’s mother Debra Fiasco, 61, supported her throughout her “Jeopardy!” tryout journey and was one of the first to hear of the good news. She said she was not surprised Emily eventually made it onto the show, as she has always been focused on what she wants. Debra said this triumph says a lot about Emily’s character and pursuit of knowledge.

“She wanted to go to UNT, she wanted to be a National Merit Scholar, she wanted to be on ‘Jeopardy!’ and she accomplished all three of those things,” Debra said. “It proves how her hard work and perseverance continue to pay off.”

Along with her excitement, Emily said she found the whole experience to be a bit overwhelming. With quick changes in between single-day episode tapings, Emily said she had little time to think in between her numerous wins. Even after leaving the studio at the end of her fourth and final episode, Emily said it was all a bit disorienting as the gravity of her winnings began to set in.

“I’m a teacher, so it’s more than I make in a year,” Emily said. “That’s pretty overwhelming to think about.”

Emily’s husband, Stephen Mues, traveled with her to Los Angeles, California for the trivia show filming. He said watching Emily compete live was nerve-wracking and that it is also still hard for him to process how much she was able to win.

“So much was at stake for her emotionally, and you only get one shot,” Mues said. “Setting a life goal of getting on ‘Jeopardy!’ is pretty crazy, but when she sets her mind on something she just does not stop until it happens. Her determination is incredible.”

As of now, Emily plans to use her “Jeopardy!” funds to renovate and expand her house, a project she has been looking forward to for some time. Aside from her monetary winnings, Emily said her entire “Jeopardy!” experience, from start to finish, has given her an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. From casual couch viewings on her DVR to physically buzzing in on-air, Emily said there is no question to how proud she truly feels.

“To have won, even at least a little bit, just feels really validating after you spend 14 years trying to get on,” Emily said. “I feel like I’ve proved myself. It’s nice to look at that as a success in my life […] and say ‘I had a goal that I wanted, I achieved it and I did it well.”

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Samantha Thornfelt

Samantha Thornfelt

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