THUNDER BAY — Ray Lalonde's impressive winning streak on the TV quiz show Jeopardy is over.
After 13 straight victories, the 60-year-old former Thunder Bay resident was narrowly defeated in the game that was televised Tuesday.
He won nearly $390,000 U.S., and will get a chance to earn even more when he returns to participate in the Tournament of Champions next fall.
The Hillcrest High School graduate, who left Thunder Bay at the age of 19 to attend university in Toronto, said Tuesday evening in an interview that he appreciates the support he's received from relatives and friends in the city.
"It's been lovely. I've still got family up there, and people I'm still in contact with. I'm hearing 'They're mentioning you every night on the news.' That's great. Thunder Bay is where I grew up ... and I've got many, many fond memories there."
The games he participated in were recorded in Los Angeles back in October, but Lalonde said he found watching the playback over the past couple of weeks to be "even more surreal" somehow.
"You don't go into this thinking this is going to happen to you ... I went down there thinking 'if I don't do too badly' and 'maybe win one game if I'm lucky.' "
He said that after the first day of taping, when he won his first two games, he thought "This is great. I've done everything I thought I would ever do. Then I went back [to record more games] the next day and kept winning."
Lalonde described the process as moving along so quickly that there wasn't a lot of time between games to sit back and think about what just happened.
"You don't have time to recover. You're back to hair and makeup, you're changing, you're back on stage and it just happens over and over again."
He plans to use some of his winnings to travel and help send his daughter to graduate school, but will invest the rest.
As far as preparing for the Tournament of Champions later this year, Lalonde doesn't seem too concerned.
"It's more about knowing what you're good at and what you need to work on. I'll probably work more on American history, trying to pick up a bit more on that, because that's not my big strong point. I could probably work on geography as well," he said.
"But you get down there because you have a curious mind and you know a lot of things anyway. It's sort of just follow your passions and what interests you, and learn that way."
One thing that requires a little getting used to is being a celebrity.
"I'm getting recognized on the street and in the grocery store," Lalonde said. "'You're that guy.' You know. Maybe some of that will settle down a little bit, at least until the Tournament of Champions happens."
When that competition starts, he just plans to "try my best and have fun."
"Every contestant down there is bright, smart, some of the most amazing people you ever meet," Lalonde said. "I feel very lucky to be in that environment and breathe that air, so to speak. If I'm competitive I'll be perfectly happy."
He's been told that, to date, he is the oldest competitor to make it to the Tournament of Champions.