WASHINGTON — Cindy Stowell captivated national attention for her six-game winning streak as a contestant on the popular US television quiz show “Jeopardy!” which ended on Wednesday. But she never got to see them broadcast on television. That’s because the contestant was suffering from Stage 4 colon cancer when she recorded the episodes in August and September, pumped up with painkillers and at one point developing a fever that reduced her voice almost to a whisper. She died on December 5 at age 41, just over a week before the taped episodes began airing, after she pledged to donate her more than $123,000 in winnings to the Cancer Research Institute. The show’s host Alex Trebek ended Wednesday’s show with a tribute. “For the past six Jeopardy! programs, you folks have been getting to know the talented champion, Cindy Stowell. Appearing on the show was the fulfilment of a lifelong ambition for that lady,” he said.
“What you did not know is that when we taped these programs with her a few weeks ago, she was suffering from Stage 4 cancer and sadly, on December 5, Cindy Stowell passed away. So from all of us here at Jeopardy!, our sincere condolences to her family and her friends.” Stowell’s run on the beloved 33-year-old show put her among the year’s top performers. After she passed an online contestant test earlier this year, Stowell — a science content developer from Austin, Texas — wrote to a producer asking how long the audition process takes. “I just found out that I don’t have too much longer to live,” she said, according to the show’s website. “The doctor’s best guess is about 6 months.” She showed up for the taping of her first episodes in August in Los Angeles under serious physical and mental impairment, The New York Times reported her boyfriend Jason Hess as saying. She felt nauseated with a fever and the painkillers she was taking delayed her reaction time, a key handicap on a show in which contestants must be first to push a button in order to give their answers. However, her opponents did not know about her condition, the show’s website said. “Cindy’s biggest fear going in was that she would get caught on minor pronunciation errors,” Hess tweeted. Several days after filming the first four episodes, Stowell was hospitalized for a blood infection, the Times reported. During her last episode on Wednesday — which was taped later in September — she provided the correct answer to the final, potentially decisive question, about the closest country to the US mainland where cars drive on the left (answer: the Bahamas). However, she didn’t wager enough money to beat to her challenger, Sam Scovill. Tributes have poured in from the show’s loyal fans. “This is easily the most compelling five-game champion in the history of the show,” the Times reported Andy Saunders, who runs The “Jeopardy!” Fan site, as saying.