‘Jeopardy!’: Watch Tournament of Champions Winner Sam Kavanaugh Break Down His Incredible Run

by Quentin Blount
Photo: Getty Images

It has been a long road for Sam Kavanaugh, but he will be heading home as the 2021 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions winner. The 10-day trivia tournament came to a conclusion on Friday as Kavanaugh, a native of Carlton, Minnesota, took home the $250,000 first-place prize.

“I have dreamed about this for so long,” Kavanaugh said. “This was such, like, a distant, faint thing when I first tried out for ‘Jeopardy!’. And then it slowly grew in my mind.”

Now a substitute teacher in the Minneapolis area, Kavanaugh tipped his hat to his opponents before thanking those who helped get him here.

“I was playing some high-level competition,” he admitted. “All I can think about is all the people who helped me get to this point. Just the teachers, family, friends, the community. You know, it took a village, and I have so much to thank and so many people to thank and hope that I can pay them back.”

The official Jeopardy! Twitter account posted highlights from Kavanaugh’s road to $250,000 on Friday night. Take a look below:

“Congratulations to Sam Kavanaugh! Relive the magic with this recap of the #TournamentOfChampions, presented by @Consumer_Cell.”

‘Jeopardy!’ Will Make a Matching Donation to Charity

As Sam Kavanaugh prepares to take home his own $250,000, the popular game show will also be donating that same amount to a charity close to all of our hearts. Jeopardy! announced that a matching donation of $250,000 will be made to the Hope of the Valley Trebek Center for the Homeless in honor of the show’s beloved longtime host Alex Trebek. Trebek passed away in November following a battle with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

According to the show, the homeless center will assist up to 300 people every year with shelter, intensive care management, mental health services, job training, and substance abuse counseling, among other services.

Meanwhile, finishing in second and third place at the Tournament of Champions was Jennifer Quail, and Veronica Vichit-Vadakan, respectively. Quail, a wine tasting consultant from Dowagiac, Michigan, thanked her family, her neighbors, her job, and even Alex Trebek for helping allow her to be on the show.

“My family has been super supportive. And my neighbors, Bud and Karen, who are watching my dogs right now,” she laughed. “Everybody’s just been so, so great about it and about the long wait. And of course, thank you, Alex.”

As for Vichit-Vadakan, the Portland, Oregan librarian said that she appreciates how the show helps people in need.

“I just want to say thank you to ‘Jeopardy!’ for the donations they’ll be giving from the show,” she said. “Especially right now, folks are needing as much help as possible. So, I really appreciate what ‘Jeopardy!’ is doing, and thank you.”