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Jeopardy! champion, a breast cancer survivor, ditches wig: 'I decided I didn't need to hide'
This Jeopardy! champion is looking to normalize cancer recovery with her run on the quiz show. Who is ... Christine Whelchel?
Whelchel, a piano teacher and church organist from Tennessee, won her fourth game of Jeopardy! on the show's latest episode, but this time, she did so without the wig she was wearing in previous games. During the player interview segment, Whelchel explained her decision to ditch it.
"I decided that I didn't need to hide behind a wig anymore, and I wanted to normalize what cancer recovery looks like," she said.
In her first game, Whelchel revealed she was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2021. One of the first things she did after receiving her diagnosis, she said, was to take the online test to get on Jeopardy! — and she auditioned to be on the show the night before undergoing surgery in May. "I'm cancer-free as of right now," she said.
With her victory in Monday's episode of Jeopardy!, Whelchel's winnings now total $73,602. She very nearly missed out on becoming a Jeopardy! champion at all, though. Her first game ended in a close call after she and the returning champion tied — the result of her accidentally wagering $1 less than she meant to — only for Whelchel to pull out the victory after a tiebreaker question. Host Ken Jennings triumphantly declared her "cancer-free and $34,000 richer!"
After she explained her decision to go without her wig on Monday, Jennings congratulated Whelchel "on your recovery and your success on Jeopardy! so far," while Jeopardy!'s official Twitter account praised her as a "strong Jeopardy! player and an even stronger person."