Record-setting Countdown star not lost for words

Seat of learning: Adam Gillard

Seat of learning: Adam Gillard

A Stanmore student has reached the finals of Channel 4's word challenge Countdown after a record-equalling stint on the programme.

Adam Gillard, 21, won the maximum eight successive games, earning him a place in the finals in June. He is only the sixth contestant in the show's 30-year history to exceed 900 points and record at least 100 in each appearance.

The Hasmonean old boy is studying for a master's in speech, language and cognition at UCL, having gained a first in linguistics.

A Countdown fan since childhood, he was encouraged to enter the competition by friends who thought he would do well.

"It was really a lot of fun filming it," he said. "You do five shows in a day, but it wasn't that exhausting because I was enjoying it so much."

Although confident of success, the length of his winning streak had surprised him.

"I was pushed a bit harder in one of the episodes, though I won all of them quite comfortably," he said. "But I was quite nervous for the eighth game."

Mr Gillard managed to form four words using all the vowels and consonants on offer - including "verminate" (to breed vermin) and "rogations" (Christian days of prayer and worship). It would have been five had he gone with his instinct and used "underlain".

If he triumphs in the finals, the prize is a laptop and a 20-volume dictionary. But he said he was in it just for the fun and satisfaction. "The whole thing has been amazing." Over the next few months he will be studying hard to improve his Countdown skills.

"I've got a brand new dictionary. I won't quite be sleeping with it under my pillow, but I'll be reading it a lot."

    Last updated: 11:15am, January 27 2011