EXCLUSIVE: Countdown prodigy, 21, lifts lid on secrets behind record-breaking run as he reveals he first applied for cult show when he was 16 after starting to watch it when agoraphobia left him unable to leave home without feeling sick
- Tom Stevenson from Burford, Shropshire, gained 1,000 points in his eight shows
- He also set records for the highest show score and fastest conundrum solver
- He began watching Countdown after his GCSEs when he was hit by agoraphobia
- Mr Stevenson is now scheduled to film the show’s quarter final on October 18
- Mr Stevenson told MailOnline he is ‘elated’ at his success, adding it is ‘surreal’
A record-breaking university student has revealed his secrets after winning all eight of his heat rounds on Countdown after he started watching the show while stuck in doors battling agoraphobia.
Tom Stevenson, 21, from Burford, Shropshire, is currently studying English Literature and Media and Culture Studies at the University of Worcester.
Last week Mr Stevenson made history on the show after gaining the highest score ever of 154 last week, and has also set a record after working out the final conundrum in just three seconds.
But he told MailOnline his favourite moment of the series so far was his final show, when an excitable host Colin Murray was hoping he would get the eight heat record.
He has collected 1,000 points across his eight appearances so far, stunning Rachel Riley, Susie Dent and Colin Murray in the process.
Mr Murray said on the show: ‘One thousand points exactly and the first contestant ever to not lose a single round — Tom Stevenson, absolutely sensational,’ Murray said. ‘And the coolest customer the whole way through, amazing.’
Mr Stevenson, from Burford, Shropshire, told MailOnline: ‘I’m elated to have done so well. It wasn’t something that I set out to do, I mainly set out just to have a fun time and just win one game.
‘The rest has been a bonus really. It’s been quite surreal to be honest.
‘I’m just happy to be back again each time.’
Tom Stevenson, 21, told MailOnline the trick to the conundrum is to look for small words in the letters
Tom Stevenson, 21, solved the final Countdown conundrum in just three seconds on his eighth appearance on the show
Over his eight appearances he has so far clocked up exactly 1,000 points – ahead of the quarter final
Tom Stevenson said that he was inspired to appear on the show because he didn’t want his A-level results, three D grades, to ‘define him’
In one record-breaking episode, which was filmed in August but broadcast at 2:10pm last Thursday, saw Mr Stevenson beat opponent Lauren Bowley by 154 to 28
Tom Stevenson is hopeful of appearing on Countdown and is considering signing up for University Challenge
The young prodigy began watching Countdown after completing his GCSEs after he was left housebound by agoraphobia, which often manifests as extreme fear to leave home.
He told MailOnline it was a very ‘hard time’ as he was ‘unable to leave the house without feeling nauseous.’
He subsequently began watching programmes including Countdown and the Wimbledon tournament to pass the time.
He said: ‘I just got into Countdown a bit more, thought I was doing a reasonable job against the other contestants.
‘So I sent an application at 16 but it’s the case with particular shows that it can take a while to get on. I tried again and eventually managed to get on this year.’
He received three Ds in his A-Levels and previously said he entered the show to ‘prove to myself I shouldn’t let the grades define my ability’.
On balancing his new found fame with his university degree, Mr Stevenson said: ‘My notifications have been very active.
‘I’ve been back at uni for three weeks – and today I did have to excuse myself from one of my lectures to answer a phone call from BBC Breakfast.
‘And I was late for my lecture this morning because I was talking to BBC Radio 4.
‘But my lecturer was very understanding. She said “that’s a first”.’
He added: ‘One of the most enjoyable moments was that final episode because there was just a great atmosphere on the studio on the day.
‘Colin was incredibly excited at the prospect of me breaking this record. He was more dedicated than me. The TV didn’t quite show Colin’s excitement.
‘I was very lucky in a sense as all of the people were nice people and good sports.’
Asked online where he is heading next after his success on the show, he told his Twitter followers he was ‘hopeful’ of appearing on Pointless and is considering joining Worcester’s first ever University Challenge team.
He hopes to become an English teacher after completing his degree this year.
Mr Stevenson joked he is ‘happy that my face is off the TV for a few months’ following the airing of his eighth win, which was filmed in August.
But he did share some exclusive tips for future Countdown hopefuls on the secrets to his success.
He advises everyone to look for prefixes and suffixes in the word rounds, including those such as ‘-tion’, ‘-ing’, ‘-less’. Mr Stevenson said: ‘That can easily transform your four-letter word into a six or a seven.’
For the numbers rounds, he suggests memorising times tables including those for 25, 50 and 75, and learning split multiplication.
There are fewer quick tips to help with the conundrum, as ‘you either see it or you don’t.’
But he added viewers should look for prefixes and suffixes, and failing that, look for smaller words which might be within a larger word.
He has quickly gained fans online after his dominant performances and honesty about his mental health struggles.
The 21-year-old from Burford, Shropshire delighted the Channel 4 show’s hosts, Colin Murray (pictured), Rachel Riley and Susie Dent, with his impressive performance
Maths whizz Rachel Riley applauds Stevenson’s performance after he easily solved a number problem
After his latest appearance on the programme yesterday, one Twitter user said: ‘The best thing about Covid is that I get to watch Countdown every day! What a show! Tom Stevenson is a legend!’
A second wrote: ‘Wonderful to witness Tom Stephenson break the 1000 point record. Congratulations!’
Another added: ‘I was on the edge of my seat! Congrats to Tom.’
Meanwhile would-be contestants joked they could finally apply to go on the show safe in the knowledge that Mr Stevenson would not be appearing on a future series.
One said: ‘I’m going to miss Tom. Possibly my favourite contestant ever but can now happily apply to go on knowing he won’t be there!’
He previously told The Times: ‘I’m gobsmacked really, but I’ve had a great time and thank you to the crew on and off camera. It’s all been great. I can highly recommend it.’
He added on Twitter: ‘I need to lie in a darkened room after it all now!’
Famous Countdown word expert Susie Dent tweeted that this week had been ‘one of the most memorable weeks in my thirty years of Countdown.’
He is next due to film one of the series quarter finals on October 18.
Should he advance, the semi-final and final will both be filmed on October 19.
He could also appear on the Champion of Champions series, scheduled for 2023, if he wins this year’s competition.
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