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The TV legend, who will present tonight’s Pride of Britain Awards, made her on-screen debut nearly four decades ago. She was the first woman to appear on Channel 4, when Countdown launched on the network’s opening day. She spent 26 years on the game show before she was replaced by Rachel Riley in 2009. Her former co-presenter, the late Richard Whiteley, revealed a famous falling out they had during a highlights show about her TV career.
Carol was picked to present Countdown from a line-up of more than 3,000 women, despite having “no desire to be in the media” during her earlier years.
Her mathematical talent was recognised by teachers during primary school and later at Sidney Sussex College, part of the University of Cambridge, where she studied engineering.
It was the future star’s mother Edwina Jean Vorderman, known by her middle name, who forced her daughter to apply for the job on Countdown.
She spotted Yorkshire Television’s advert that was “looking for someone with brains and beauty” and told Carol: “You ought to try for this!”
Jean recalled: “She said, ‘Oh I know nothing about television’, but I said ‘Well the others don’t either’.
“So I insisted that I should type this letter, which I did do and that she should sign it and we posted it and that was the start.”
There she spent more than two decades on the show with Mr Whiteley, until his death in 2005, and during their time together had a short feud.
During an interview on the BBC show This Is Your Life In 1997, the late star told audiences that they were “like an old married couple” but had “one unfortunate incident”.
Mr Whiteley compared them to “Patsy [Kensit] and Liam [Gallagher] of the Saga set” before he recounted their fallout while Carol was pregnant with her son Cameron.
He said: “I came out of the studio one night to the dressing room. Now my dressing room is rather sparse, not much in it because obviously she has the star dressing room.”
Carol’s mouth dropped and she gave Mr Whiteley a stern stare as she exclaimed: “Liar, liar pants on fire!”
He continued: “But there is a lovely chair, a lovely reclining chair there, that I love. I’ve had that chair for 15 years. After each show, I recline in it, it’s terrific.
“I came back after the studio performance and the chair was gone so I said to the head of the dressing room, ’Where’s my chair!?’
“‘Oh,’ she said, ‘Carol has taken it, Carol’s taken it!’ I said, ‘Well why?’ She said, ‘Well she’s five months pregnant, she needs it.’”
During the anecdote, the star smirked sheepishly before Mr Whiteley went on to explain “what really annoyed” him.
He said: “What caused this was not just that she didn’t ask me, she just had it nicked and put into her room.
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“She was five months pregnant but even then my need was greater than hers because my tummy was bigger than hers.”
The pair laughed as they both clasped his large stomach and dark tie, which had colourful hearts and lips on it.
Last month, the 59-year-old joked about her time on Countdown and claimed they weres “rubbish”, during her show on BBC Radio Wales.
She said: “There were only the three channels [at the time] but because everyone tuned in – not to Countdown – but to the start of the new channel, it was something like 9 or 10 million people tuned in.
“Our first show made television history by being the first show on Channel 4 with this amazing audience.
“We were so rubbish the next day we made television history for a second time because we had the biggest switch-off of viewers – we lost like 96 per cent of the audience. We laughed about it.”
The Pride of Britain Awards 2020 will air at 9PM tonight on ITV.
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