What do you do for an encore when, at the tender age of 23, you’ve been crowned Canada’s Smartest Person? Braden Lauer isn’t worried about that just yet – he’s busy with calls, texts and emails from family and friends – even past teachers – from across the country congratulating him on winning the title Sunday evening, after beating out eight finalists on the finale of the CBC challenge competition show.
The long-time St. Albert resident, now in his second year of law school at UBC, was understandably bleary-eyed after a night of little sleep following Sunday night’s broadcast, and months of staying mum with the news that he’d won – the series was shot in Toronto this past August.
“I’ve learned I can keep a secret well,” laughed Lauer. “I was trying to rein in the excitement all these months, and even at the viewing party on Sunday with friends in Vancouver. My parents are over the moon – and I’ve been getting a lot of feedback from my siblings – we’re a competitive group.”
Lauer’s sister Megan, who now calls herself Canada’s smartest big sister, still lives in St. Albert along with one brother – an 11-year-old brother and Lauer’s parents now live in Vernon, B.C. As siblings sometimes do, Megan said she’s already planning on how to keep Braden’s ego in check when the family comes together for Christmas in Vernon.
“We’re so competitive – family game nights are going to be crazy – I’ll have to beat Braden at Pictionary or something,” said Megan, who joined some 20 relatives for a potluck/cheer on Braden viewing party on Sunday. “We’re so very proud of him – we were worried for a while when he was trailing in the finale, but it was amazing when he came back to win. I’m surprised, but not surprised. Whatever Braden puts his mind to, he usually does it.”
Retired Lorne Akins teacher Barrie Schulha, who was Lauer’s wrestling coach and math teacher through junior high echoed that sentiment. “Braden was always off-the-scale smart – he stood out in anything he did,” Schulha said.
“He thrives when the pressure is on – the more intense the better. I knew if he made it to the final challenge he’d win. Anything puzzle-oriented, with math and logic, he did great at it. I told Braden’s mom that his smarts had nothing to do with the genes, it was junior high learning years,” joked Schulha.
In fact, Lauer said it was a cup-stacking challenge, followed by karaoke singing and public speaking challenges that gave him the momentum to come from behind and sail through a final gauntlet challenge for the win. Through the series, contestants were measured in multiple intelligences: linguistic, visual, musical, physical, social and logical.
“I did a lot of puzzles and problem-solving when I was a kid, but this experience opened my eyes to the wealth of people across Canada who are brilliant in different ways. The other finalist, Johnny, is an awesome guy – a poet who knows more about politics than I do.”
While he calls Vancouver home for now, Lauer said he’s lived as much in Alberta as B.C., and felt he was representing the West in the show. From nearly 10 years in the St. Albert school system – at Keenooshayo, Lorne Akins and Paul Kane – to full scholarships through a commerce degree at the U of A and now law school, Lauer credits many teachers, coaches and mentors – such as his dad – for getting him where he is.
“My dad always wanted us kids to set goals and have high expectations for ourselves. He wants us all to be proud of ourselves, whatever we choose to do,” Lauer said.
St. Albert mayor Nolan Crouse said achievements such as Lauer’s should be recognized, and he expects to bring it to city council’s attention at the next meeting.
“We recognize achievements in sports and arts, groups that get medals or provincial titles – this is unique, but it’s a point of congratulations. We shouldn’t be scared of recognizing when individuals earn something that is well-deserved,” Crouse said.
While the title of Canada’s Smartest Person comes with no monetary prize – not even a certificate – Lauer said bragging rights and a unique entry on his resume is enough.
“Now that the show is done, I’ll get back to what I should be doing – studying. I’m buried in books right now, and I don’t want to crash and burn on these second-year law exams,” Lauer said. “I think I get the title for at least a year, or until they do the series again. Maybe I should have a belt made up or something.”
• Several thousand Canadians entered the Canada’s Smartest Person competition online. After interviews and preliminary tests, a group of 32 contestants was chosen to compete in on-air challenges. Each weekly winner became the final 8, who competed in a slew of challenges in a two-hour finale.
• The interactive CBC show saw millions of challenges played with downloadable apps, so Canadians could test themselves along with the show contestants.