Edinburgh students told to keep University Challenge victory secret - for a YEAR

THEY proved themselves to be masters of all-conquering Byzantine empresses, unsolvable mathematical problems and legendary Iron Maiden tracks.

University Challenge
 was won by the University of Edinburgh
University Challenge was won by the University of Edinburgh

But members of Edinburgh’s University Challenge-winning squad were forced to keep their historic victory quiet for almost a year while episodes of the long-running television quiz aired, one teammate has revealed.

Marco Malusa joined captain Max Fitz-James, Matt Booth and Edinburgh-born Robbie Campbell Hewson to become the first University from Scotland to win the competition since 1984 and the first non-Oxbridge finalist in six years with their triumphant 155-140 win over Oxford’s St Edmund’s on Monday evening.

Economics and Politics student Marco, originally from Italy, told the Evening News the episodes were actually filmed in 2018, with the winning team forced to keep tight-lipped about their victory.

Marco, 22, said: “It was really tough to keep it quiet for a whole year, I ended up telling a few members of my family and some close friends, but we had people asking us all the time how we were doing, it was tough not to just blurt out the fact that we had won.”

Campbell answered the crucial question to edge Edinburgh into the lead going into the final round of bonuses, meaning the team were unable to be caught by their opponents.

Host Jeremy Paxman praised both teams for contesting a “great final” before Edinburgh were presented with the trophy by novelist Sebastian Faulks.

Marco – currently studying on a year abroad at the University of Hong Kong – added: “It was just an amazing feeling. Sitting there, I was trying to work out the scoring in my head, I knew it was going to be tight but I didn’t actually realise how close it was until the gong went to end the game.”

Captain Fitz-James told BBC Scotland’s The Nine: “The main secret is to be good as a team and that came in the selection process; they really made an effort to find people who had a complementary basis of knowledge so it wasn’t just down to one person, we did it as a team.

“The best training was watching past episodes and doing it together as a team, so we would get together every Monday and watch past episodes, pause and try and answer the questions before the team.

“This is the third year in a row that Edinburgh reached the semi-finals so we were very pleased we got one 
further than that, and even more pleased when we finally lifted the trophy.”

The team carried a Greyfriars Bobby mascot with them throughout the competition.

University of Edinburgh principal, Prof Peter Mathieson, congratulated the team on their victory, adding: “It’s a huge tribute to the students involved to have beaten off very tough competition from some of the sharpest minds in UK universities and won the final.”

Prof Mathieson continued: “University Challenge is a real television institution and everyone associated with the University should be justifiably proud of what the team has achieved.”