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No foolin -- Martinsburg man to appear on 'Jeopardy!' April 1

March 26, 2005|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - After being soundly defeated in a "Jeopardy!" tournament in 2001, Bob Fleenor probably would not have wagered on making a return appearance on the game show.

"I thought that was the end of it for me," the former five-time champion said. "I did not fare very well."

Fleenor finished that quarterfinal game in the "Jeopardy!" Tournament of Champions with $2. Brad Rutter won the game with $18,000 and went on to become the long-running quiz show's first million-dollar winner.

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But last October, when a "Jeopardy!" staff member left a message on Fleenor's answering machine asking him to update his contestant information, he said he had a hunch he would be asked back.

"That's a euphemism for 'we want you back on the show,'" said Fleenor, a copy editor for The Herald-Mail.

His hunch was accurate, and on Christmas Eve, Fleenor found out he would be back on the quiz show for its first Ultimate Tournament of Champions.

"It was a real nice present," he said.

The idea for a 15-week Ultimate Tournament of Champions stemmed from contestant Ken Jennings' 74-game winning streak last year. People began to wonder how he would fare against other "Jeopardy!" champions, according to a written statement from the show.

Nearly 150 "Jeopardy!" champions are competing in the Ultimate tournament, including previous winners of the quiz show's Tournament of Champions, College Championship, Teen Tournament and more than 100 of the "top-scoring, undefeated, five-time champions since the show began in 1984," according to the statement.

The tournament began airing Feb. 9. The first-round game featuring Fleenor will air April 1.

The two surviving players from the first three rounds and semifinals will compete against Jennings in the finals, which will air May 23-25. The tournament champion will win $2 million.

Fleenor first appeared on the show in the spring of 2001, winning $55,700 and two Chevrolet Camaros.

Despite being under the gun while competing on camera, Fleenor said the pressure isn't that noticeable.

"When you are playing the game, you forget that there are going to be millions of people watching," Fleenor said. "Once the game starts, you get the adrenaline going. You get caught up in playing the game. It's very fast-moving when you're there."

While Fleenor isn't allowed to say how he performed in his comeback game, he said returning to the show was a rewarding experience.

"It's been fun," he said. "I had fun out there, and I hope it shows when the game is on."

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