A shocking loss. Recent Jeopardy! winner Brayden Smith has died of unknown causes at 24.
“We are heartbroken to share that our dear Brayden Smith recently passed away unexpectedly,” his mother, Debbie Smith, announced in a tweet on Friday, February 12. “We are so grateful that Brayden was able to live out his dream on @jeopardy.”
The official Twitter account of the long-running quiz show replied: “The JEOPARDY! family is heartbroken by the tragic loss of Brayden Smith. He was kind, funny and absolutely brilliant. Our deepest condolences go out to Brayden’s family. He will be missed.”
Brayden was one of the final contestants to compete on Jeopardy! during late host Alex Trebek‘s tenure and impressed audiences with a five-episode winning streak. He earned more than $115,000 and qualified to return for the show’s Tournament of Champions.
“I’m really grateful for everything [and for] all the opportunities that I had,” Brayden said in a video reflecting on his Jeopardy! experience posted on YouTube in January. “I’m glad that I was able to show what I was capable of. … Every moment that I was there, as I moved from the third lectern to the champions lectern, I just wanted to stay there as long as possible.”
News of the brainiac’s passing comes one month after Trebek’s final episodes aired. The Canadian TV personality, who hosted the nightly game show for 37 seasons starting in 1984, died at 80 in November 2020 after battling stage IV pancreatic cancer.
Trebek publicly disclosed his diagnosis in a YouTube video in March 2019, vowing to follow doctors’ orders and commit to a treatment plan. “Now, normally the prognosis for this is not very encouraging, but I’m gonna fight this and I’m gonna keep working and with the love and support of my family and friends and with the help of your prayers also, I plan to beat the low survival rate statistics for this disease,” he said at the time.
Nearly one year later, the Daytime Emmy winner admitted that he already had an idea of how his last Jeopardy! episode would look.
“It will be a significant moment,” Trebek said on Good Morning America in January 2020. “I will say my goodbyes and I will tell people: ‘Don’t ask me who’s going to replace me because I have no say whatsoever. But I’m sure that if you give them the same love and attention and respect that you have shown me, then they will be a success and the show will continue being a success. And until we meet again, God bless you and goodbye.'”
At the time of Trebek’s death, Sony Pictures Television did not reveal a permanent replacement. All-star contestant Ken Jennings was later announced as the first in a series of guest hosts, followed by Katie Couric, Aaron Rodgers, Mayim Bialik, Anderson Cooper and Savannah Guthrie.