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Northern Ont.-born man returning to Jeopardy for Tournament of Champions

Ray Lalonde says he appreciates all the support he's received from his hometown of Thunder Bay
Ray Lalonde (r) is shown with Jeopardy host Ken Jennings in this photo taken when Lalonde won 13 games in 2022/23. He returns on March 4 for the Tournament of Champions.

THUNDER BAY — If Ray Lalonde is to repeat the success he enjoyed on his first appearance on Jeopardy, he'll have to defeat a lot of exceptionally strong competitors.

The Thunder Bay-born-and-raised man is among 27 contenders in the Tournament of Champions, which begins on Friday.

A little over a year ago, Lalonde won 13 straight games and nearly US$390,000, qualifying him for the tournament that was scheduled to take place in the fall of 2023.

But the event, which offers a prize of $250,000 to the winner, was delayed due to a strike by members of the Writers Guild of America.

Lalonde recently got the call to return to Sony Pictures Studios in Los Angeles, where Jeopardy is produced.

When his turn in the tournament comes up on March 4, he knows he'll have thousands of people cheering for him back in Thunder Bay.

He graduated from Hillcrest High School and left the city at the age of 19 to attend university in Toronto, where he works as a TV and movie set designer.

"Thank you for all the support I got from Thunder Bay," he said in an interview Monday. "It's been lovely . . . I've heard from a lot of people, and it was very nice to get that support back."

In preparation for the big tournament, he spent time last year brushing up on topics where he feels he might be vulnerable.

"I've done a certain amount of audio books and that sort of thing, and I tried to concentrate on some things I thought I was weak on – movies, sports, geography like world capitals, the sort of things they ask a lot."

While episodes of the tournament were being recorded, the producers put all the contestants in the same hotel.

"It was a big group of us -- and we all got to hang out, do our photo shoots together, and just make connections and be friends. So it really felt like we were one big group there, which was nice," Lalonde said.

"This was almost a brand new experience, after a year. You go back down there and you kind of feel 'Did that even happen to me last year?'  It almost feels like it happened to somebody else, but there you are, back again."

He's one of two Canadians in the Tournament of Champions, the other being psychiatrist Juveria Zaheer from Whitby, Ont.