‘Jeopardy!’ Tournament of Champions Contestant Details ‘Hard Week’ of Mother, Alex Trebek Passing Days Apart

by Joe Rutland

There’s always emotion on “Jeopardy!” during tournament time. One contestant, though, faced dealing with two deaths close together.

As the “Tournament of Champions” gets underway, contestant Sarah Jett Rayburn from Hutto, Texas, talks about having her mom die soon after longtime host Alex Trebek died.

“Jeopardy!” guest host Buzzy Cohen expressed his sadness over Rayburn’s loss.

“Thank you, Buzzy,” she said. “Yeah, it was a hard week and it’s been a hard time but I was so grateful for my time on ‘Jeopardy!'”

Check out the interaction between Cohen and Rayburn in this clip from the show’s Instagram account.

Obviously, this marks the first “Tournament of Champions” since Trebek died from pancreatic cancer in November 2020. “Jeopardy!” started this tradition way back in 1964 with original show host Art Fleming.

Cohen does have the experience to be in this spot. He’s a previous “Tournament of Champions” winner and also knows about being a contestant on the show, too.

Rayburn and 14 other champions go at it during the tournament. It’s one of the highlights for the game show’s fans each season. This year’s event on “Jeopardy!” will be a bit different. Still, Cohen will do his best to maintain the level of excellence during the event.

‘Jeopardy!’ Guest Host Talks About Preparation Before Stepping Into Role

If anyone thinks Cohen simply stepped into the guest-hosting spot and didn’t prepare, then think again.

Cohen talked about doing his homework in an interview “Jeopardy!” put on its website.

“I prepared very intensely,” he said. “Like a lot of people I hadn’t really been doing that much activity during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Cohen admits that he started working out “to get my stamina up.”

“I know how long these tape days are and how focused and attentive the host really needs to be,” Cohen said. “You’re reading clues, you’re directing traffic, you’re refereeing, you’re giving color commentary. So you’ve gotta be really focused and have your stamina up.”

The two-week-long event can take its toll on everyone.

“I did a lot of work on that,” Cohen said. “And the ‘Jeopardy!’ crew gave me a lot of help with my clue reading and all the other little things that look effortless when Alex Trebek would do it, but actually are really hard to do.”

In case you don’t know, the “Jeopardy!” tournament winner will take home a $250,000 grand prize.