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In conversation with Ahmed Mohamed, Countdown’s first Black champion

25th Feb 2022
In conversation with Ahmed Mohamed, Countdown’s first Black champion

Ahmed Mohamed, from Tottenham in north London, won series 84 of Countdown, in a nail-biting grand final, which aired on Channel 4 on December 23. Ahmed became the first black winner in the popular daytime quiz show’s 39-year history. The 27-year-old’s victory is even more significant because he became champion, while the show was hosted by its first Black maths expert, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE.

Why did you apply to take part in Countdown?

I have been a big fan of the show since I was 16 years old. I played it enough to reach a really good level, and my friends and family were always telling me to apply to go on the show, but I never really wanted to. I stopped watching and playing it for around 5 years, and I happened to catch a random episode when I had some spare time (mid-2021). I realised that my level was still pretty high, so I just decided to go on and apply right then and there! I wanted to venture out of my comfort zone, and this was a good way to do it

Before applying, were you aware that no Black contestant had ever won Countdown in its 39-year history?

Yeah, I was aware. I was actually interested in the answer, so I looked it up and found out there were indeed no previous Black winners.

Other than winning, what was the highlight of being in the show?

Meeting and having a chat with Susie Dent was great, she’s brilliant. Other than that, definitely meeting the contestants I came up against; I met some really nice people who were very easy to talk to. It’s always nice to be able to share such a daunting experience with someone else in the same position as you.

You did not look nervous at all during the show; you were so relaxed. How come?

Haha, people have been saying I did look really relaxed, but I genuinely was not relaxed at all. I was anxious and nervous the whole time and tried not to show it. My demeanour on the show may have come off as a bit arrogant, but I definitely wasn’t feeling that way internally, it was the nerves!

What feedback did you receive after winning, especially from the Black and Muslim communities?

I received a great response from both communities (and in my case, both intertwined because I am Sudanese). I had a ridiculous amount of phone calls coming in from family haha, I don’t think they would’ve expected me to do something like this, but everyone was so congratulatory, and I was just really appreciative of it all. I was riding that high for a good while! It was really nice seeing the headlines about the ‘first black countdown champion’ though.

What advice do you have for anyone thinking of applying? For example, can you actually revise for it?

There are some good resources out there to use, the best being a site called apterous. Most series champions have been on that site, so it’s not a bad place to start! Otherwise, you don’t have to go on with the sole goal of winning the whole thing, it’s just a great experience in general and something you can call back on fondly to remind yourself that you did.

What are you doing currently?

Job searching, unfortunately. Not the best fun. I have quite a few interviews lined up that hopefully will go well.

Finally, if you could take part in any other game show, what would it be?

Pointless, probably!

(Photo courtesy of Countdown)

Interview by Elham Asaad Buaras

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