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Gainesville ‘Jeopardy!’ champion reflects on Alex Trebek, special moment they shared
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Lakeview Academy graduate Dhruv Gaur, right, pictured with Alex Trebek, competing on "Jeopardy!" in April of 2018. (photo courtesy of "Jeopardy!")
Before Dhruv Gaur ever thought about applying for "Jeopardy!”, Alex Trebek was just the friendly, familiar host on the TV screen for a half-hour every night. 

“As a kind of nerdy kid who was very curious, loved learning about the world, those were some of the best 30 minutes of any day was the time that ‘Jeopardy!’ was on,” said Gaur, who won the show’s college tournament in April 2018 and took home $100,000. 

Gaur, of Gainesville, said a friend texted him Sunday about Trebek’s death. 

Trebek, who announced in 2019 that he had advanced pancreatic cancer, died at his Los Angeles home, surrounded by family and friends, “Jeopardy!” studio Sony said. He was 80. 

The Canadian-born host, who made a point of informing fans about his health directly, spoke in a calm, even tone as he revealed his illness and hope for a cure in a video posted March 6, 2019. 

“I think my first reaction was, I think, like a lot of people, just incredibly sad and a little bit shocked,” Gaur said. “Obviously, pancreatic cancer is a very serious disease, and everyone including Alex knew that this could happen, but it’s hard not to be shocked in these situations.” 

As he read the statement from the show and fellow champions, Gaur said it seemed like Trebek “went in peace” while doing what he loved. 

Gaur said he felt this “overwhelming gratitude for this person who had touched my life and so many other people’s (lives).” 

Trebek said he intended to fight his pancreatic cancer and keep working, even joking that he needed to beat the disease because his “Jeopardy!” contract ran for three more years. Less than a week later, he opened the show with a message acknowledging the outpouring of kind words and prayers he’d received. 

“Thanks to the — believe it or not — hundreds of thousands of people who have sent in tweets, texts, emails, cards and letters wishing me well,” Trebek said. “I’m a lucky guy.” 

Gaur said the host was a humble and genuine man, who strived to make people feel welcomed. 

After winning the college tournament, Gaur returned to the show last November for its Tournament of Champions.  

When the episode aired, Gaur said Trebek had just announced that he was reentering treatment. 

“During the Tournament of Champions, we were really privileged that he stopped by the dressing room, in fact, to talk to us,” Gaur previously told The Times. “When we were having that conversation and when he was talking to all of us is when I kind of realized that this is really affecting him.” 

Calling it one of his favorite memories with Trebek, the Gainesville man wrote “We (heart) you Alex!” as his response to the show’s final question. 

“I’m just really grateful to have been a part of that moment and to have touched him so deeply then,” Gaur said. 

The program tapes weeks of shows in advance, and the remaining episodes with Trebek will air through Dec. 25, a Sony spokeswoman said. 

Trebek, who became its host in 1984, was a master of the format, engaging in friendly banter with contestants, appearing genuinely pleased when they answered correctly and, at the same time, moving the game along in a brisk no-nonsense fashion whenever people struggled for answers. 

He never pretended to know the answers himself if he really didn’t, deferring to the show’s experts to decide whether a somewhat vague answer had come close enough to be counted as correct. 

“I try not to take myself too seriously,” he told an interviewer in 2004. “I don’t want to come off as a pompous ass and indicate that I know everything when I don’t.” 

The Associated Press contributed to this report