NS Jeopardy! Champion Mattea Roach craved knowledge even as a toddler, parents say

Like Nova Scotia Peril! Champion Mattea Roach’s winning streak continues, her parents in Halifax beaming with pride.

The 23-year-old Roach has won 19 games so far and is already the most successful Canadian to appear on the show. On Friday, his winnings exceeded US$460,184.

“Not to be in the negative – that was a mini-goal,” Roach’s mother, Patti MacKinnon, joked during an at-home interview on Friday before the last Peril! aired episode.

Roach’s father, Phil Roach, added that his daughter’s performance on the popular quiz show was “an incredible ride beyond our wildest dreams”.

Mattea Roach is the eldest of four children. His parents said that when he was around 18 months old, Roach was able to recognize letters and understand basic math like addition and subtraction.

Mattea Roach’s parents, Patti MacKinnon, left, and Phil Roach. (Radio Canada)

“She probably started reading when she was about three years old and always showed an interest in … learning just for the sake of learning, wanting to know things and being fascinated by talking to people or listening to people and d ‘learn’, his father mentioned.

MacKinnon, a federal government employee, said her daughter had always loved books and that love intensified as she got older.

“If you introduced a new book, it was like, ‘How soon can I swallow this? ‘” she said. “At the age of three or four, I mean, it was pretty heavy knowledge.”

Roach’s parents have Jeopardy! goods exhibited there. (Radio Canada)

Roach’s parents enrolled her in private school a year before she could start in public school. She has been involved in dance, football, band, choir and musicals. She traveled and participated in her school’s debate team where she flourished.

She also skipped two grades, her parents said.

“What you see on TV is the real Mattea. She’s charming, humble and a down-to-earth, warm person. She’s not like, you know, a mastermind or a genius who doesn’t is just a fountain of knowledge,” said her father, who works in HR.

During Friday’s show, Roach recalled playing a 1986 version of the Canadian board game Trivial Pursuit as a child with her father. She said it helped her retain some obscure facts – an ability neither of her parents claimed to have.

“She’s definitely unique,” MacKinnon said.

Roach told her parents to babysit her Peril! silent plans because she wasn’t sure the competition on the show would actually happen. She did a test on Peril! website which is used to find potential contestants, and was surprised when someone from the show got in touch, MacKinnon said.

Roach’s parents say his intelligence was apparent from an early age. (Radio Canada)

“We were pretty excited just for her to go, just to have the experience,” she said.

Although Roach’s parents know the outcome of her race, they don’t know the details like the questions she answered or how much she won. They host watch parties in their living room, where six to twenty people gather to cheer on Roach. Friends say they don’t want the outcome to be spoiled.

“We’re all going through this because it’s a once in a lifetime experience, none of us ever anticipated this was going to happen and it’s just amazing,” MacKinnon said.

MacKinnon says Roach’s “mini-goal” was to not end up in the red. As of Friday, Roach had earned over US$460,000. (Radio Canada)

Roach has talked about paying off student loans with his earnings. MacKinnon said her daughter was frugal, so she wasn’t too surprised by the plan. She expects Roach to invest the money, maybe some of it in real estate, go back to school, and travel.

And although there was a good-natured competition between Halifax and Toronto – where Roach now lives – to lay claim to the trivia genius, MacKinnon said “Nova Scotia is home”.

Roach says his daughter has always been kind, whether she wins or loses. (Radio Canada)

Phil Roach said what he finds most impressive about his daughter is her kindness, whether she wins or loses.

“I think it’s a big inspiration for other kids,” he said. “More recently, she’s been recognized as part of the LGBTQ community. So that’s giving visibility, maybe inspiring kids to be who they are. Just do your best and good things will happen.”