A Galway man is making waves on Channel 4 gameshow Countdown. Kevin Steede, who is a native of Belclare, is now one of this year’s most successful contestants after winning eight games in a row. On average per series, only three or four individuals reach this stage of the competition.
Countdown is one of the longest running gameshows in the world, it was the first programme to be aired on Channel 4 and 70 series have been broadcast since 1982. Two contestants are pitted against each other, and the clock, testing things like literacy and numerical agility.
Participants compete in three disciplines, firstly there are 10 letters rounds, in which the contestants attempt to make the longest word possible from nine randomly chosen letters. Some of the words being spelt by Kevin Steede have even confounded lexicographer Susie Dent who sits in what is known as the ‘dictionary corner.’
Next up on the show are four numbers rounds, in which arithmetic is used to reach a random target number from six other numbers.
Finally comes the conundrum, a buzzer round in which the contestants compete to solve a nine-letter word puzzle. During the series heats, the winning contestant returns the next day until he or she loses or has accumulated eight wins, at which point participation is capped until the final.
Kevin Steede won his eighth show yesterday meaning he now takes the prestigious title of a Countdown ‘Octochamp’. The Galway man has always been a fan of Countdown and he decided to enter the gameshow after some egging on from friends who had observed him watching it and realised he had an aptitude for the subject matter. “I was a fan of the show when I was younger and got back into it during my student days. It is very popular with students as it’s on in the afternoon. I was always good at spelling but was never particularly brilliant at maths in school, however it is more about mental arithmetic, which I enjoy. It took a few dares from friends to get me to enter. I applied and got on well at the audition.’
The-25-year old believes it is difficult to predict the outcome when the cameras are turned in your direction, as everybody reacts differently to those circumstances. He believes it is something that was off-putting for some of his competitors. “Filming the show itself can be a bit terrifying with all the cameras on you. It is also exhausting because it is so full on. I did five shows in one day and three the following day. It is hard because every competitor you are up against is completely fresh. A lot of it is about how you adapt to the cameras. Nobody can foresee how they will react in those circumstances. I was a bit terrified at the start but mainly I just tried to ignore the cameras and pretend they weren’t there.’’
Mr Steede, who is based in Plymouth, where he works as an occupational therapist, has been pleasantly surprised by the amount of interest his appearance on the gameshow has generated. “I find it a bit baffling really. I didn’t realise how popular it is. The reaction has completely taken me by surprise. You would be amazed at who watches it.’’
Countdown is different to many gameshows in that there is no monetary gain for the winner. In keeping with the show's friendly nature, contestants compete not for money but the Countdown winner's teapot, which is custom-made and can only be obtained by winning a game on the programme. The prize for the series victor is a leather-bound copy of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary, which is worth almost €5,000. A young man from the west of Ireland will now return to the Channel 4 studios later this year in the hope of securing the prestigious accolade. “I entered hoping to win one show and I said to myself if I did that I would be happy. It obviously spiralled massively from there and I am obviously thrilled to have got this far. I don’t really mind how I do in the finals now as I really never expected to get there.”