A record-breaking college student has revealed his secrets after winning his eight heats on Countdown after he started watching the show while stuck in doors battling agoraphobia.
Tom Stevenson, 21, from Burford, Shropshire, is currently studying English Literature and Media and Cultural Studies at the University of Worcester.
Last week, Mr Stevenson made show history after scoring the highest score of 154 last week, and also set a record after solving the final puzzle in just three seconds.
But he told MailOnline his favorite moment of the series so far was his last show, when thrilling host Colin Murray hoped he would get the record eight heats.
He’s collected 1,000 points in his eight appearances so far, stunning Rachel Riley, Susie Dent and Colin Murray in the process.
Mr Murray said on the show: ‘A thousand points exactly and the first competitor not to lose a single lap – Tom Stevenson, absolutely sensational,’ Murray said. “And the coolest customer all along, amazing.”
Mr Stevenson, from Burford, Shropshire, told MailOnline: ‘I’m delighted to have done so well. It wasn’t something I intended to do, I just wanted to have fun and win a game.
“The rest was really a bonus. It was pretty surreal to be honest.
“I’m just happy to be back every time.”
Tom Stevenson, 21, told MailOnline the trick is to look for small words in the letters
Tom Stevenson, 21, solved the final countdown riddle in just three seconds in his eighth appearance on the show
In his eight appearances he has scored exactly 1,000 points so far – ahead of the quarter-final
Tom Stevenson said he was inspired to appear on the show because he didn’t want his A-level results, three D grades, to “define” him.
In a record-breaking episode, which was filmed in August but aired at 2.10pm last Thursday, Mr Stevenson beat opponent Lauren Bowley 154-28.
Tom Stevenson hopes to appear on Countdown and plans to sign up for the University Challenge
The young prodigy started watching Countdown after completing his GCSEs after being housebound by agoraphobia, which often manifests as an extreme fear of leaving home.
He told MailOnline it was a ‘very difficult time’ as he was ‘unable to leave the house without feeling nauseous’.
He then started watching programs such as Countdown and the Wimbledon Championships to pass the time.
He said: “I just got into the countdown a bit more, I thought I was doing a reasonable job against the other competitors.”
‘So I sent in an application at 16 but that’s the case with particular shows where it can take a while to come up. I tried again and finally got through this year.
He received three Ds in his A-Levels and has previously said he came on the show to “prove to myself that I shouldn’t let the ratings define my abilities”.
Balancing his newfound fame with his college degree, Mr Stevenson said: “My notifications have been very active.”
“I’ve been back at university for three weeks – and today I had to excuse myself from one of my lectures to take a phone call from BBC Breakfast.
“And I was late for my talk this morning because I was speaking on BBC Radio 4.
“But my teacher was very understanding. She said “this is a first”.
He added, “One of the most enjoyable moments was that last episode because there was just a good vibe in the studio that day.”
“Colin was incredibly excited about me breaking this record. He was more dedicated than me. The TV didn’t quite show Colin’s excitement.
“I was very lucky in a way because all the people were nice people and good sportsmen.”
When asked online where he’s headed next after his success on the show, he told his Twitter followers that he hopes to appear on Pointless and plans to join Worcester’s first-ever University Challenge team.
He hopes to become an English teacher after graduating this year.
Mr Stevenson joked he was ‘happy my face was off TV for a few months’ after his eighth win aired, which was filmed in August.
But he shared some exclusive advice for future Countdown hopefuls on the secrets to his success.
He advises everyone to look for prefixes and suffixes in word turns, including those such as “-tion”, “-ing”, “-less”. Mr Stevenson said: “It can easily turn your four-letter word into a six or a seven.”
For number tricks, he suggests memorizing multiplication tables, including those for 25, 50, and 75, and learning split multiplication.
There are less quick hints to help you solve the riddle, like “you see it or you don’t”.
But he added that viewers should look for prefixes and suffixes, and failing that, look for smaller words that might be inside a larger word.
He quickly gained fans online after his dominating performances and his honesty about his mental health issues.
The 21-year-old from Burford, Shropshire delighted Channel 4 show hosts Colin Murray (pictured), Rachel Riley and Susie Dent with his impressive performance
Math whiz Rachel Riley applauds Stevenson’s performance after easily solving a number problem
Stevenson said he first became interested in the show after studying for his GCSEs after being housebound with agoraphobia
After his last appearance on the program yesterday, one Twitter user said: ‘The best thing about Covid is I can watch Countdown every day!’ What show! Tom Stevenson is a legend!’
A second wrote: ‘Wonderful to see Tom Stephenson breaking the 1000 point record. Congratulations!’
Another added: ‘I was on the edge of my seat! Congratulations to Tom.’
Meanwhile, potential contestants joked that they could finally apply to take part in the show knowing that Mr Stevenson would not appear in a future series.
One said: ‘I will miss Tom. Possibly my favorite contestant of all time, but I can now happily apply to continue knowing he won’t be there! »
He previously told The Times: “I’m really amazed but had a great time and thanks to the crew on and off camera.” Everything went well. I can strongly recommend it.
He added on Twitter: “I need to lay down in a dark room after all now!”
Renowned countdown word expert Susie Dent tweeted that this week had been “one of the most memorable weeks in my thirty years of countdown”.
He must then film one of the quarter-finals of the series on October 18.
If he qualifies, the semi-final and final will both be filmed on October 19.
He could also appear in the Champion of Champions series, scheduled for 2023, if he wins this year’s competition.