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Five-Time 'Jeopardy' Champ

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We caught up with Kristin Sausville of Glasgow just after her appearance on the TV game show “Jeopardy” aired in mid-March. Sausville, whose husband Justin won six times on the show a few years ago, is a stay-at-home mother of two who just added $94,201 (before taxes) to the family coffers. The couple also now holds a Jeopardy record.

 

DT: You’re a big celebrity these days. I’m a little bit nervous.
KS: (She laughs.) I’m a little bit nervous to be interviewed.

 

DT: I don’t hold the status of say, an Alex Trebek, so I think you’ll be OK.
KS: It is a little bit intimidating the first time you see him up close and in person.

 

DT: I would guess it would be. My family always talks about how awkward the interviews can be. Why is that?
KS: I think it’s a little bit awkward because everybody is kind of in game mode at that point. You’re trying to remember something interesting and you’re trying to sound coherent. What happens is, when you get the call to go on the show, they send you a questionnaire where you talk about your various anecdotes that you’d like to discuss and also answer questions so that they can draw ideas for other anecdotes. They have three of them on the card that Alex is looking at. And while you can tell them which one you’d prefer to talk about, in the end, it’s up to him. I think sometimes people get thrown off if they said they had a preference for one story and then he starts talking about another story. All the sudden you have to switch gears and still sound coherent. I think that’s what leads to some of the awkwardness.

 

DT: He kind of tripped you up.
KS: I was not expecting him to ask which state I wanted to go to. And then I started talking about Alaska and then I was going to say that I wanted to go to Barrow because it’s the northernmost city in the country. And then I got paranoid that it would come up as a clue later, and one of my opponents would get it. So at that point, I just started babbling, and I know I sounded ridiculous.

 

DT: A few hours ago, you posted on Twitter that you were going to be super busy the next couple days. What’s going on?
KS: I had a lot of volunteer stuff lined up at both of my kids’ schools for today and tomorrow. But my youngest son ended up being sick today, so all of that went out the window. I guess I jinxed it.

 

DT: How has this whole thing changed your life?
KS: It changed my life in that I got to do something that I’ve been dreaming about since I was a little kid. I got to meet a lot of interesting people—both people with the show and my fellow contestants. I was not expecting my appearance to go as viral as it did. You know, people contacting me who I hadn’t heard from in years. And I guess when the money comes, that will change things even more.

 

DT: When does the money come?
KS: They have up to 120 days after the show to send it to you. When my husband was on, I want to say he got it after about three months or so.

 

DT: How much do you have to pay in taxes?
KS: California takes seven percent off the top with a game-show winnings tax. And then we have to pay federal and state taxes after that on our own.

 

DT: How do you plan to use the money?
KS: We had talked about doing home improvement projects, but now we’re also starting to talk about travel options.

 

DT: Where will you go?
KS: We’ve been researching Antarctica a little bit. I talked about my 50 by 40 project—trying to get to all 50 states by the time I’m 40. After that, I’d like to try to get to all the continents by the time I’m 50. So, we could get a jump on that.

 

DT: You didn’t expect your appearance to go as viral as it did?
KS: The second game in which I played, I was in Final Jeopardy by myself. That ended up being the No. 1 trending topic on Facebook. It was in all kinds of media outlets. I have a friend who works for People magazine and he interviewed me for a story for their website, which ended up getting 2 million views within a day.

 

DT: Although you won, that was kind of a negative moment in Jeopardy history. How did you feel about being part of that?
KS: I had pretty mixed feelings about it. It was exciting to be part of a moment that is so uncommon—it’s happened fewer than 10 times in 31 seasons of “Jeopardy.” It was fun to be part of something historic, and it was good to be on the winning side of it, but at the same time, I felt really badly for my co-competitors in that game, who were both very nice people who just ended up on the wrong side of a rough board.

 

DT: Then I saw the haters coming out on social media, and you chastised them.
KS: It’s ridiculous for anybody who hasn’t been through it to make fun of them. And if people think they are so superior and would do such a better job, then the online test is coming up soon.

 

DT: I’m in awe of anybody who can go on the show and do that. Sitting in your family room is one thing.
KS: It’s very different when you’re standing there under the lights. You know that if you lose you go home. Everybody is standing right there. It’s for real money. It’s for real stakes. They do their best to choose contestants who won’t crack under pressure, but they’re not perfect and sometimes people have a rough game.

 

DT: I know you did local radio and newspaper interviews, but somebody told me they saw you on CNN.
KS: They were doing a story about the solo Final Jeopardy. My brother texted me that day and said he saw me on CNN, which was pretty surreal.

 

DT: What other appearances have you done?
KS: Other than the interview for People.com, not a lot of outlets contacted me directly. I noticed that a lot of the other websites that picked up the story just lifted it from the People.com story. I did an interview with The News Journal.

 

DT: What did your kids think about the whole thing?
KS: They were really excited about it. We had a viewing party for the first episode at Stewart’s Brewing Company in Bear. My kids were there, and ABC 6 was there. My 7-year-old walked up and asked them if they would interview him. They put the camera on him and he said, “My name is Matthew Sausville, and I’m a fan of Mom.” (She laughs.) I think I will treasure that as much as the show experience. They were really excited. They told their teachers. They told their friends at school. Every time I’ve gone to school since then, I’ve had their friends coming up to me saying they saw me on TV. So, I’m glad that they were at the age where they’re proud of me and they’re not terribly embarrassed that they’re mom was a nerd on national TV.

 

DT: Do people recognize you out in public?
KS: I notice people doing double takes when they see me, but they haven’t come up and said anything.

 

DT: Are you wearing dark sunglasses and big hats and stuff?
KS: (She laughs.) No. I definitely haven’t reached that point.

 

DT: How did your celebrity affect your social media numbers?
KS: I probably got about 200 new followers. On Facebook, I got a lot of requests. I didn’t accept all of the requests I got. Some of them were very strange. But in terms of reconnecting with old people from my life and the new friends that I made as a result of the experience, I probably got about 200 new friends.

 

DT: When will you find out if you’ll be on the Tournament of Champions?
KS: They’re not held at the same time every year, and there was just one that aired in November, so there are rumors going around that the next one will be held in about a year or so. But in the end, it’s whenever they decide they want to hold it. They don’t make any guarantees that you’ll be invited, but, historically, almost everyone who has won five times has been invited. So I feel pretty good about my chances.

 

DT: How did you and your husband handle the situation? I’m sure he supported you, but was he competitive or did he tease you at all?
KS: He’s been so supportive. He figures that this is a good thing for our family. Me getting to fulfill my dream is good for me, and any money I won helps all of us. So he was supportive. He didn’t feel any sense of jealousy or any nervousness about if I was going to beat him or not. He’s been nothing but wonderfully supportive.

 

DT: Didn’t you set some sort of Jeopardy record as a couple?
KS: There have been a lot of couples where both partners were on. There’s only one other couple where both spouses won and we won more games combined than they did. We did pass the record for most combined wins by a married couple.

 

DT: After realizing your childhood dream, what will you do for an encore?
KS: If I get invited to the Tournament of Champions, hopefully, I will do better than my husband did there.

 

DT: This is exciting to get to talk to a local celebrity. We don’t have many of those here.
KS: What I’ve loved about doing this is just how supportive the community is. Delaware really gets behind its people who go viral or become nationally known. It’s really nice. Not just throughout this, but ever since we’ve moved here. We’ve lived here about three and a half years, and I just found it so welcoming. It really sank in at the viewing party where we were surrounded by people from our neighborhood, people from the schools our kids have attended, people from our church. It’s really made me feel really happy about the home we found here.
 

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