LIFE OF Why a decade of in­ne­undo and laugh­ter spells hap­pi­ness for Count­down’s su­per smart maths queen

The People - - NEWS FEATURES - By Ja­nine Yaqoob TV EDI­TOR and Sarah Robert­son

ADD a bright young maths ge­nius to one of the world’s long­est TV game shows and what do you get?

The an­swer, of course, is the pop­u­lar fig­ure of Rachel Ri­ley.

Here’s a trick­ier one. How long has the 32-year-old been the queen of the num­ber games on the peren­nial favourite, Count­down?

Even the mil­lions of fans of the day­time Chan­nel 4 show may be sur­prised know she has been set­ting puz­zles for con­tes­tants – and solv­ing them – for ten years.

Rachel has just fin­ished film­ing her tenth an­niver­sary show, which will air in Jan­uary, and took time to chat to the Sun­day Peo­ple.

Al­though she is a maths grad­u­ate from Ox­ford it is the words, not the num­bers, that keep her on her toes.

While her co-hosts Nick Hewer, 74, and Susie Dent, 51, seem un­moved when a risqué word pops up dur­ing the game, Rachel finds she can’t con­tain her laugh­ter.


She said: “The beauty of Count­down is it does throw in the odd teaser or co­nun­drum that is quite rude to a cer­tain au­di­ence but not to an­other gen­er­a­tion.

“Quite a lot of the time Susie and Nick won’t have a clue why I’m in the cor­ner wet­ting my­self, or why a word that’s com­pletely in­no­cent with one mean­ing has a com­pletely dif­fer­ent con­no­ta­tion to cer­tain peo­ple. A lot of the time it goes over Nick and Susie’s head. Susie has got the most amaz­ing knowl­edge of ev­ery­thing in the English lan­guage un­less it’s got a rude con­no­ta­tion.

“She has a com­plete blindspot. I’m the go-to dic­tio­nary and film per­son that she checks with – ‘is this an in­nu­endo, would this sound weird?’ Of­ten a dou­ble en­ten­dre is lost on them and I am there to lend a help­ing hand.”

In 2014 Count­down reached 6,000 episodes and was awarded a Guin­ness World Record for the long­est run­ning show of its kind.

Es­sex-born Rachel’s quick wit and cheeky sense of hu­mour has made her a fans’ favourite. She won over even more peo­ple, in­clud­ing her pro dance part­ner Pasha Ko­valev, with her 2013 stint on Strictly Come Danc­ing. Rachel has ap­peared in over 2,000 episodes of Count­down since beat­ing over 1,000 ap­pli­cants for the cov­eted job. She had the tough job of taking over the felt-tip pen from Carol Vor­der­man, 57, who left af­ter 26 years on the show. To prac­tise for the job Rachel even recorded the Count­down clock mu­sic on her phone. Af­ter a decade at the sharp end of the quiz show, it’s not only the word games that have made Rachel blush. She said: “My most em­bar­rass­ing mo­ment is Nick Hewer telling ev­ery­one I was gag­ging for a hard one. I had my face in my hands. We had a se­ries of easy num­ber games and Nick told ev­ery­body I was gag­ging for a hard one.” But one of the favourite mo­ments for Manch­ester Utd fan Rachel was a sur­prise visit to the show by Reds le­gend Ryan Giggs, car­ry­ing flowers, for her 1,000th show in 2013.

Rachel loves her job and said: “I still just en­joy do­ing it. It’s the ba­sic num­bers game I guess. I have no plans to leave. It’s great. They are like a fam­ily to me.”

Carol, on the show since its start year in 1982, pre­sented it along­side Richard White­ley, 61, un­til his death in 2005, then pre­sent­ing with sports pre­sen­ter Des Ly­nam, 76, and lastly singer Des O’con­nor, 86.

Speak­ing of any “ri­valry” with Carol, Rachel said: “Peo­ple want a maths-off be­tween us. I can’t imag­ine it hap­pen­ing.

RECORD: With Susie & Nick in 2014 SUM STINT: Count­down’s Carol

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