‘Jeopardy!’ Tournament of Champions Finalist Veronica Vichit-Vadakan Reveals How She Prepares For Competitions

by Jennifer Shea

When she first arrived at the “Jeopardy!” set, Tournament of Champions finalist Veronica Vichit-Vadakan thought she was the least prepared of the bunch.

She had been watching “Jeopardy!” intensely for a year, recording each episode and playing along at home. And she had won a mock “Jeopardy!” tournament in high school. Still, these were accomplished trivia buffs she was up against. They had done College Bowl, bar trivia and various quizzing tournaments. She had done none of that.

But somehow, she managed to win four “Jeopardy!” games in a row last year. And then this year, Vichit-Vadakan made it through the semifinals to become one of the Tournament of Champions finalists.

How The ‘Jeopardy!’ Tournament Of Champions Finalist Wound Up On The Show

When she was in grade school, she was a major “Jeopardy!” buff, Vichit-Vadakan told the Oregon Chapter of the Association of College and Research Libraries’ blog last year. But after she headed off to college, she got busy and stopped watching the show.

Then, around three years ago, Vichit-Vadakan’s friend urged her to take the “Jeopardy!” test. It’s a once-a-year online event that serves as a precursor to the audition process. After she took the test, Vichit-Vadakan was invited to audition. Luckily for her, the auditions were held in Portland, her home city.

“Once you do the audition, you are in the contestant pool for 18 months,” Vichit-Vadakan explained. “Anytime between the time you audition and 18 months they might call you. For me it was about 16 months when they called me. I didn’t think I was going to be on the show and then at the last minute, I was. They give you four weeks’ notice.”

After she auditioned, Vichit-Vadakan began watching the show religiously. She tracked how she was answering questions at home, noting her weak points. She also used flashcard apps.

Still, watching the show had left her feeling more intimidated than prepared. “Oh my gosh, I can’t do that,” the contestant said she thought as she watched the show. “How do they know these things?”

Show Moves At Breakneck Speed

“Jeopardy!” plows through two weeks’ worth of shows in two days. They shoot five shows per day. Contestants get a 10-minute break between shows to rest up and change clothes.

“If you win a show, they escort you off the stage very quickly,” Vichit-Vadakan told the ACRL blog. “It’s such a whirlwind. They send you back to the dressing room; you have to change your clothes, get your makeup touched up, get your microphone back on, and then they push you back on the stage. That’s as much time as you have between each show.”

While he was still alive, Vichit-Vadakan said, late “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek exerted a calming influence on the show. Sadly, Trebek died of stage 4 pancreatic cancer on Nov. 8, 2020.

By the time she competed in the fifth episode in a row, Vichit-Vadakan recalled being exhausted. She jokingly blamed the borrowed blazer she had to wear for bringing bad luck, but said that ultimately, it was probably just that she was so worn out at the end of the day.

Still, her performance last year was good enough to earn her a place in the Tournament of Champions. And hopefully this time, she brought enough of her own clothes with her.