University Challenge winner celebrated by viewers despite transphobic trolls: ‘A brilliant captain’

Emily Cullen appears on university challenge against a blue background, next to the team's teddy bear mascot

A University Challenge contestant who led her team to victory has been celebrated as “brilliant” by viewers, despite the predictable fury of a handful of transphobic trolls. 

Robert Gordon University (RGU), in Aberdeen, Scotland, competed on the show for the second time in the programme’s 60-year history, facing off against the University of Roehampton on Monday (28 November).

Team captain Emily Cullen led Samuel Fregene, Faye Cooke and Donald Anderson to an incredible victory, beating Roehampton 210 points to 90. 

According to the Daily Record, the RGU team only met in person for the first time on the day of filming, having practiced by watching episodes together over Zoom. 

Cullen, a trainee pharmacist, said: “I was obsessed with going on University Challenge, and all a person thinks about while the participation is still embryonic is how you/the team/the match will appear on telly.

“However, I can say hand on heart that the relationships we formed as a team made these concerns seem insignificant.

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“It was beyond beautiful the bond that formed between myself, Donald, Faye, Samuel and Ingrid and we’d all have happily failed miserably in our endeavours if it meant we still got to meet each other and become friends for life.”

According to the Press and Journal, Fregene is also the first-ever Nigerian student to appear on the show. 

However, as soon as the episode began airing, Cullen was bombarded with vicious comments on social media, with trolls describing the episode as a “woke mess”, using transphobic slurs to describe the captain, and one even adding: “At least three of this lot are straight out on a Just Stop Oil march when this finishes.”

But they were quickly drowned out by those applauding her skill. 

“What a brilliant captain,” wrote one viewer.

“Cullen knows far more than any of the bigots hiding behind their keyboards on this bird app,” said another. 

A third Twitter user, who had truly had enough of the incessant bigotry, added: “Sick of trying to follow the tag of quiz shows, with all these ugly miserable MFers, spraying their hateful s**t all over it when everyone isn’t a straight gender-conforming person. 

“Jesus f**k, keep your misery to yourselves, you self-loathing pieces of s**t.”