Fame beckons for Oxford pair who won University Challenge

The pair, both from London, said they had a plan to beat internet sensation Eric Monkman


Two Jewish students are getting used to newfound fame after being part of the team that won this year’s University Challenge.

Joey Goldman captained Balliol College, Oxford, to victory over Wolfson College, Cambridge in the final of the BBC quiz.

Alongside him was fellow Jewish Balliol undergraduate Jacob Lloyd.

In the days since the final was broadcast on Monday last week, the pair have been stopped in the streets of Oxford by admirers asking them to pose for selfies.

Mr Goldman, 23, who is studying philosophy and theology, told the JC: “I was sitting in the college quad the other day and a group of students came through and asked me for photos.”

Mr Lloyd, 30, who is working towards a doctorate in English literature, said: “I’ve been recognised by a couple of people, and some of my friends have asked for selfies to prove to their relatives that they know us.”

The pair have not yet experienced their own version of “Monkmania”, the level of attention attracted by the Wolfson captain Eric Monkman, whose popularity spawned internet memes and a large fan following.

The two students, along with team-mates Benjamin Pope and Freddy Potts, sacrificed Seder night with their families to watch the final, which was recorded several months ago, in their college surrounded by friends and well-wishers. 

Mr Goldman said: “We watched it in our common room — there were about 100 people there. There was a lot of shouting and cheering at the screen, and a big celebration.”

Almost as exciting as winning the quiz was meeting Professor Stephen Hawking, who presented them with the University Challenge trophy.

Mr Lloyd, who attends Ealing Liberal Synagogue, said: “It was an amazing experience — he was exactly who we’d hoped for.”

Mr Goldman revealed the team had prepared by playing matches in the University of Oxford quiz society. Ahead of the final, they had focused on “buzzer practice”, designed to improve reaction time in answering questions.

He said: “We’ve competed in a number of tournaments — there are inter-collegiate tournaments all year. We knew what we knew, so we just did buzzer practice.”

After narrowly losing to Wolfson College earlier in the competition, the team decided to be less aggressive when buzzing in, and it proved effective.

Mr Goldman said: “We lost the first one against Wolfson by 30 points. We had six incorrect interruptions. For each one we were deducted five points, which comes to 30 points.

“Our plan for the final was to play it safer because Eric [Monkman] is an aggressive buzzer. We thought that if the questions were on the stuff we know we would win, so we let Eric make some guesses.

“A few times he buzzed in with great answers but sometimes he got it wrong.”

Since University Challenge matches are filmed months in advance, the pair were not allowed to tell anyone they had won the competition, save for members of their immediate families.

Mr Lloyd said: “When you go on the show you have to sign an agreement — even people in the audience have to promise not to reveal who won.

“They made it very clear we weren’t allowed to speak about it. But every now and then the four of us would get together and whisper to each other ‘We won University Challenge!’

“We were all overwhelmed. It’s hard to tell how far you are in the match. I couldn’t quite believe it. In my whole life it will be a unique achievement.”

Both men said their respective families were “very proud”, and they have each received “endless” phone calls and emails in the wake of their victory.

Mr Goldman said: “My mum, dad and brother were at the final when it was filmed a few months ago.

“It’s been really good to connect with a lot of people in my family who I don’t speak to that often.”

University Challenge has attracted criticism for its male dominance, and both finalists this year were all-male teams.

Mr Goldman, from St John’s Wood in north-west London, said he believed women were discouraged from participating in the show because of the focus on their “appearance and bodies on social media and in certain newspapers”.

Earlier in the series a female contestant from Oxford received media attention after being dubbed the programme’s “hottest ever” participant.

Mr Goldman said the university’s quiz society was now looking to introduce a “no more than three men” rule in their inter-collegiate team quiz, which he hoped would encourage greater female participation — but the problem starts “earlier than at trials”, he warned.

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