Meet team Warwick: We spoke to them on their return to University Challenge after two years

They’ve just beat Cambridge in the first round

It’s that time of the year again — University Challenge season is upon us and for Warwick that means the return of a Warwick UC team two years after the university won the tournament in the 2020 – 2021 season. The Warwick UC team faced off against Wolfson College Cambridge in their debut game, beating them with a score of a whopping 265 points. Last month, The Warwick Tab sat down with the new Warwick UC team, made up of proud Warwick Quiz Society members James Coe, Luke Beresford, Captain Matthew Bliss, Abby Akarapongpisakdi, and reserve Thomas Hart — to discuss their run in the upcoming series.

Getting into Quiz

Most of the team had the common experience of watching University Challenge at a young age and being interested in joining quizzing societies as undergraduate students. “I’m a naturally curious person and I just like finding stuff out and I like little facts and it’s just the kind of person I am” said James Coe. He added that he “slotted in quite nicely in quiz and once you do a little bit, and you start knowing stuff, and you get stuff right, it feels good and I got more into that.” Abby Akarapongpisakdi, on the other hand, said that she got into quizzing by watching a show in Thailand. “They had specialists in each subject and it scarred me because to explain an answer they had literal footage of a shark mauling a dude for some reason on Thai TV” joked Abby, admitting she does think about that shark while quizzing from time to time.

Captain Matt Bliss recollected first getting into quiz through University Challenge saying, “my parents would have it on all the time when I was a kid even though it was a wildly inappropriate show on an intellectual level to have a ten-year-old watching — some of it must have gone in.” According to Matt, at his previous university’s pub quiz circuit, “there was a brief period of time where I was making an absolute killing.” After lockdown, however, he found himself taking quizzes more seriously and now is captaining the team into what students at Warwick hope is another victory for the University that has won the tournament twice before.

via BBC

Preparing for the tournament

“You just do quizzes,” said Luke Beresford in a very practical sense. “I know that sounds very basic but the fact that we, both in person and online, practised twice a week on the buzzer at Quizbowl and the Friday sessions where the four of us would play against a cobbled-together opposition massively helped us” suggested Luke who later revealed this opposition team regularly included Andrew Rout and Richard Pollard who were on the winning team of 2020-2021.

“The format is very different between Quizbowl and UC with a different question style so what served us well when practising Quizbowl wouldn’t really serve us well at University Challenge” said Matt, suggesting they focused more on their reaction-based skills during practice. Thomas Hart and Luke both agreed that the team being good friends made the process better for everyone. Thomas suggested that it made it easier for them in bonus rounds because no one on the team was scared to suggest silly answers.

Being on TV for the first time

Abby was the only person on the team that had been on TV before. A news team had visited the golf club, where an 11-year-old Abby was playing golf, to cover a news story about a nearby pond in Abby’s city in Thailand. She walked in front of the camera and hit a shot that ended up making the televised story. “Did it prep me for UC? No, not really” joked Abby. The team generally felt relaxed on screen as they were focusing more on the tournament and less on the televised aspect of the show. Matt, however, recalls “cacking it before the cameras started rolling. Like, that was when I was at my worst.” On the other hand, James suggested he was less nervous about the cameras. “There were nerves, but it’s not the oh-god-everyone’s-watching nerves,” recalled James, saying that he’s dreading rewatching a moment when he gets called out on one of his answers by Amol Rajan. This prompted the other team members to suggest that the moment wasn’t as bad and they were all a bit nervous to watch some of their own bad moments. “I personally think we’re the nation’s sweethearts,” said Captain Bliss jokingly.

Thoughts on the new host

Amol Rajan replaced Jeremy Paxman following his resignation after almost thirty years hosting University Challenge. This season is Amol Rajan’s first as host. “I was actually really pleasantly surprised,” said Thomas, “and when I watched it and could think about how he was presenting it I thought he was really good and the right replacement,” he added. Luke said that Amol Rajan and the crew were very personable behind the scenes, chatting with the team and helping calm their nerves. “To a certain degree in the first round you could tell he was nervous himself and we were sort of in the same boat” suggested Thomas because of the big shoes Amol Rajan had to fill. “Or a big chair to fill” chimed in Matt, who promised that Amol Rajan is not as small as he looks sitting in his chair on TV. Amol Rajan wasn’t the only person uncomfortable in their chairs on TV as Luke was supposedly sitting on multiple cushions in his seat while James was crouching down for most of the shooting.

via BBC

Mascots of the team

Finally, it is tradition for most teams to carry a mascot to the tournament. This year the team took a fluffy duck and a framed picture. When asked about the mascots, the team explained that the “cuddly” duck represented the Dirty Duck on campus where the team regularly participates in pub quizzes. The duck mascot was apparently “mysteriously produced” by former captain of the 2020-21 team, Andrew Rout. James and Matt explained that the framed picture is a “memorial to a dearly departed friend” of the team. It was quite a touching moment for the team to carry their friend’s legacy onto this series of University Challenge.

via BBC

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