Poolie scholar’s victory bid in TV quiz

Sarah Johnson (left) with fellow Oxford Brookes team members
Sarah Johnson (left) with fellow Oxford Brookes team members

A HARTLEPOOL-BORN brainbox has been pitting her wits against other university scholars on a long-running TV quiz show.

Sarah Johnson has been seen by millions of television viewers battling it out on BBC2’s University Challenge as part of the Oxford Brookes team.

The 32-year-old and her team-mates, Richard Williams, Antony McLarin and Austin Sherlaw-Johnson have one last chance to win through to the finals.

Viewers saw the students miss out to Sheffield University’s team with 135 points to their rivals’ 265 in Monday’s quarter-final.

They have appeared three times on the show and won two early rounds, but must win two quarter-finals.

They will return to the panel next month to compete for their last attempt at victory.

Oxford Brookes University has only appeared on the show once in the last 14 years.

Sarah described host Jeremy Paxman as “really lovely” and said it was a “brilliant opportunity” to be on the show, which has been running since 1962 and was previously hosted by Bamber Gascoigne.

Although the show is pre-recorded, Sarah remained tight-lipped about the outcome.

She said: “We have done better than any other Brookes team that has been on the show.

“We have got a good team.

“We are nervous, but confident that we can win.

“It’s nerve-wracking being on the show, but something I’ve wanted to do for so long.”

Sarah, who is in the final year of a mathematical sciences degree, was born in Hartlepool, but moved away when she was young to Bury St Edmunds, in Suffolk with her parents, Margaret and Graham Johnson, who were also born and bred in the town.

The family later moved to London and she moved with her parents to Switzerland when she was 16, where Graham and Margaret still live.

Sarah’s gran, Mary Flanagan still lives in Hartlepool, in the Deer Park area, and uncles John Flanagan, Michael Johnson, aunt Marie Pinchen and various cousins still live in the town.

The former Sacred Heart Primary School pupil gained an international baccalaureate in Switzerland, which is the equivalent to three A-Levels.

Sarah, who still visits Hartlepool, won a place on the show after a lecturer at the university sent out an email asking students to take part in a quiz.

She came top out of around 100 students after answering 66 questions correctly.

Sarah and her team can next be seen fighting for a place in the final of the show at 8pm on March 14.