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Quiz whizz of Didsbury on Mastermind

    Rachael Neiman
    Rachael Neiman

    A student who reached the semi-finals of University Challenge is preparing to test her brain on Mastermind.

    Rachael Neiman, who lost her sight at 17 after contracting rheumatoid arthritis, will brave the black chair next Friday (September 3).

    The 26-year-old student, who lives in Didsbury, south Manchester, is originally from Blackpool, where her family are members of the Reform Synagogue.

    She has chosen questions on the pop group Belle and Sebastian as her specialist subject.

    "They know about the choice, and they are excited - Mastermind hasn't had them before," she said.

    Ms Neiman, who is about to enter the third year of her PhD in English and American studies at Manchester University, said her interest in quiz shows came from watching them as a child with her father.

    "And then University Challenge got me hooked," she said.

    She said the two shows were very different. "Mastermind is more nerve-wracking because you're on your own, whereas on University Challenge if a question comes up and you don't know the answer, your team may do.

    "But being on University Challenge has definitely helped me out. I learnt where my quiz strengths and weaknesses were. You find that out very quickly."

    On University Challenge the picture questions were also rendered into Braille so that Ms Neiman could take part, but she said being blind had not put her at any disadvantage.

    "And there's no picture round on Mastermind, so it doesn't make any difference," she added.

    A music enthusiast, she runs her own record label and presents an online radio show called The Rachael Neiman Experience.

    Her University Challenge team was defeated in the semi-finals by eventual winners Emmanuel College, Cambridge, whose captain was another Jewish brainbox, Alex Guttenplan.

    Coming so close to winning has only made her more determined to do well on Mastermind.

    And, whatever the result, it is unlikely to be the end of her quiz career.

    "At the moment I've not applied for anything else but I'm sure I will soon," she said.

    "There seems to be a quiz community - you can get sucked in."

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