Top marks from Paxman for former Newport pupil

Left, Lewis Rendell, 21, from Newport, with his Bristol team mates and presenter Jeremy Paxman.

Left, Lewis Rendell, 21, from Newport, with his Bristol team mates and presenter Jeremy Paxman. - Credit: Archant

A maths prodigy from Newport has made it to the quarter finals of the fast-paced intellectual rollercoaster that is University Challenge.

Lewis Rendell, 21, competed with his team mates from Bristol University when the long-standing BBC quiz programme aired on Monday night last week, showing the sharp-tongued presenter Jeremy Paxman testing eight contestants on everything from monarchs to mushrooms.

The battle of wits against London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine was neck-and-neck for most of the show, with the Bristol team pulling head in the last few minutes and winning 160-135, in what Paxman called a “terrific performance”.

The former star pupil at Joyce Frankland Academy, now in the fourth and final year of his maths degree, had to compete against around 240 other students to get his place for the team. He and the four others then met with the programme’s producers and undertook a further general knowledge test to make the cut – which just 28 out of 130 teams succeeded in doing.

“Jeremy was great,” Lewis said.

“He came to have a chat with each team both before the match and afterwards in the green room, He’s nowhere near as stern off the set; it’s as if he swaps into his quizmaster persona as soon as the cameras start rolling! He was firm but fair with all the teams, and is of course perfect for the show.”

The Bristol students swotted up by allocating each other special subjects to focus on, with Lewis assigned the periodic table amongst a myriad of other topics. “We spent a lot of time hanging out and eating pizza while testing each other,” he said.

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The quarter final – which will see Rendell and his team pitted against teams on two separate occasional in their battle to win the competition – is likely to be shown in January next year.

“We look forward to seeing you in the death-defying later stages of the contest,” Paxman told Lewis and his Bristol team.