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Hari Parameswaran, Deanna Bolio, Jilana Cotter Win 2023’s First Jeopardy! Second Chance Competition

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The first Jeopardy! Second Chance competition of the season came to an end on Friday with Hari Parameswaran, Deanna Bolio, and Jilana Cotter advancing to Champions Wildcard, which begins Monday, October 2. In addition to winning a coveted spot in the upcoming competition, each champion also earned $35,000 in winnings.

Jilana Cotter was crowned champion on Friday of the third and final week of the current  competition, which featured players from Season 37 who didn’t become Jeopardy! champions  in their initial appearances. The senior data analyst from Dade City, Florida, secured the win with a runaway semifinal and an impressive performance in her two-day final against Michalle Gould, a librarian from Laguna Beach, California, and Barb Fecteau, a high school librarian from Beverly, Massachusetts.

“I loved getting a second chance because for a long time, I felt like I really wanted one,” Jilana said, discussing her win. “And [then] I thought, ‘Okay, you just have to make your peace with it because with Jeopardy!, once you lose that’s it. That’s the way the world works.’”

“But this was a wonderful second opportunity,” she added. “It was unbelievable.”

As the only champion in the competition who won all three of their games and held the highest cumulative score of $43,399, Jilana said she was proud of her performance this time around.

“I feel like my studying really paid off,” Jilana said. “I tried to focus on areas that are, maybe, more weak points for me.”

“I’m not particularly good with movies, and I learned all the Best Picture winners,[and] that definitely helped,” she said.

During the second week of the competition, Deanna Bolio, a community outreach supervisor from Campbell, California, came out victorious after winning her semifinal in a runaway and pulling off a close win in the finals against Pam Sung, a physician-scientist, from Amherst, New York, and Rob Kim, an attorney from Portland, Oregon. Deanna placed first with a cumulative score of $28,600, while Pam took second with $26,201 and Rob finished in third with $16,800.

“I did not trust my math even slightly,” Deanna said, discussing the finals. “Even at the last minute, I was staring at the scores, thinking, ‘Did you do this right?’”

“I couldn’t believe that I had gotten into that position,” Deanna continued. “I didn’t really feel confident until Ken showed the final score.”

Now that she’s a champion who “got to redo it all,” Deanna said she’s happy that she held onto the flashcards she made for her initial appearance on the show.

“I came very close this spring [to tossing them out,]” Deanna said. “I thought, ‘You are never going to use these [flashcards].’ And something just told me, hang on, you put a lot of work into them. So, I put them back in the closet, and they came in handy.”

The first week of Second Chance, which kicked off earlier this month on September 9, concluded with Hari Parameswaran, a hardware engineer from Cupertino, California, taking home first place after winning big in his semifinal and then narrowly taking the win with a cumulative score of $36,800 in the 2-day finals against David Maybury, a magnetics engineer from Richmond, Virginia, who placed second with a total score of $36,328. Jill Tucker, an operations manager from Mulino, Oregon, came in third with a cumulative score of $27,400.

“I can still hardly believe that not only did I just get a second chance, but that I came back and won,” Hari said. “Now, I’m going to come back again [for Champions Wildcard.]”

In preparation for his return to the Alex Trebek Stage, Hari said he “watched a lot of old episodes” and practiced responding to clues with his parents.

“They were really integral,” Hari said of his parents drilling him on past game material. “Even when I didn’t feel like it my mom would call me on the phone and say ‘Okay, we have to do at least two more rounds before you sleep.’”

In the end, Hari’s hard work paid off and his mom got to watch her son become a champion live in the studio audience.

“I really missed [having] that support dearly during Covid when I taped my episode,” Hari said. “But now that she [his mother] was here, and was able to witness this great moment, I’m really glad for both her and me.”

With their entry into Champions Wildcard, Jilana, Deanna, and Hari are now all one step closer to qualifying for the next Tournament of Champions. Whether the cards will fall in their favor remains to be seen, but for now they can all be content with becoming a Jeopardy! champ — the second time around.