For all her talents with numbers, you might be forgiven for thinking that Rachel Riley had quite a sheltered upbringing, and always had her nose in a book, but if you do think that, then you’re wrong!
Rachel Riley joined the Countdown team as she shows resident numbers wizard in 2008 after Carol Vorderman stepped down following 26 years of wizardry on the show.
And some of you may forget that Rachel Riley, when she took the job on Countdown, was fresh out of university, having secured a 2:1 in mathematics at Oriel College, Oxford. She even said herself that she managed to secure the best graduate job in the world, as she beat off over 1,000 candidates to secure the position as Carol Vorderman’s successor.
The picture you see is of Rachel Riley on her last day of college, having earned four As at A Level, and it’s clear to see that while the young maths wiz certainly knew her stuff, she wasn’t all work and no play. Despite her fun loving attitude at college and university, her old teachers said that she was pretty much perfect academically.
As she studied at one of the top universities in the world, she was also very active in sports, playing hockey, netball and football, as well as competing in cross country and other athletics.
Such was her talent, her application form for Oriel College, Oxford, read: “Rachel is regarded as one of the most talented physicists her teacher has taught in 30 years.”
And Rachel, when she secured the job on Countdown, admitted that she was a huge fan of the show.
“This is the best graduate job in the world,” she said in 2008. “There’s only one cool maths job around and I was lucky enough to get it, so I’m absolutely thrilled.”
Her former PE teacher Carole Ager said: ‘We’re all very proud she has secured this glamorous job by using her intellect. Her time here showed that she can turn her hand to anything.
“She was outstanding at maths but just as good at sport too – always reliable and totally focused, a fantastic all-rounder.”
Headmistress Alison Clewlow added: “I think she’ll be great on television because she is the kind of girl who can do anything. She always had excellent reports.”
And given her aptitude for academics, you’d think that she spent her years at Oxford in a library, but it was in fact very much on the contrary, as her friends from uni said: “She was great fun, very easy going and very popular.”
Over the years, she has taken to her position as resident maths wiz on Countdown with aplomb, and has even presented on other shows. Her beauty and her sometimes somewhat revealing dress sense has made her the subject of a lot of online chatter, but sometimes, sadly, she has been on the receiving end of severe scrutiny because of what she wears.
Commenting on the situation, Riley said: “Even with the same outfit you’ll get polar-opposite views, so you can’t win. You’ve just got to learn that you can’t please everyone all of the time.”
It was online scrutiny such as this that led to full blown trolling abuse when she joined up with Sky Sports to present for Friday Night Football.
She was forced to quit her job on the show after just a year there after Spurs fans took to social media and sent her hideous torrents of abuse after what she said after Spurs drew with West Ham in the 2015/16 season, effectively ending their hopes of pipping Leicester City to the title.
She said that Spurs had done a “proper bottle job” and the abuse she got for it was downright ridiculous.
Despite that, she bounced back and still presents for Countdown, as well as the show’s post-watershed counterpart 8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown.
It’s hard to think that when you see the picture of her from her last days as a college student at 18, you’re looking at one of the finest mathematical minds in the country!