by Anne Calder

IDC recently caught up with figure skating analyst Jackie Wong prior to his May 19, 2020 appearance on Jeopardy! He shared his thoughts on taping the show, missing the 2020 World Championships in Montreal, and living in New York City during the pandemic.

Jackie will be live tweeting during the Jeopardy telecast on Tuesday, May 19, at 7pm ET.  Follow along via @rockerskating on Twitter or visit www.rockerskating.com.

Tell us about your Jeopardy experience – audition, taping, meeting Alex Trebek. How did you prepare for the audition? 
I’ll give you the quick bites version of my Jeopardy! experience (because I can go on for paragraphs!). This was the second time I had gotten to the in-person audition part of the process – you start off with an online test that used to be administered once a year, and then you wait and see if you pass it *and* if you get randomly selected to the in-person audition). Even when you’re in the in-person, the chances of them picking you for the show is still just something like 10%, so you just never know. (I’ll talk more about the process in my Instagram Live on May 19 at 7:30pm ET).

The taping was incredible, and so unprecedented because it was the week before the stay-at-home orders were widely in effect. So everything was being disinfected constantly, there was no studio audience with the exception of contestant guests, and there were a lot of protocols in effect on where Alex Trebek would be and to not touch him because he is immunocompromised. It was certainly an unusual version of a Jeopardy taping, but being on Jeopardy is once in a lifetime and something I’ve wanted to do since I was a teenager when I was doing “nerd sports” in high school.

Are you a “Jeopardy Junkie”? Who’s your favorite contestant?
I can’t say I’m a Jeopardy! Junkie. I go through phases where I will watch a bunch of episodes in a row, but I don’t follow it consistently. Either way, Ken Jennings is definitely my favorite (at least of the Jeopar-celebs) – I always feel like he’s in a calm and amiable mood when he’s on the show. He’s friendly but ruthless – I guess you can afford to be that when you know you’re the Jeopardy! GOAT.

Before the World Championships were canceled, what were you most anticipating about the event?
Frankly, just the sheer fact that I was going to get to cover another potentially incredible Worlds in person again. I work long hours at these competitions when I’m there live, but every time I feel like asking myself why I stay at the rink for 15 hours, I remember that it’s such a privilege to be able to do what I do with competitions. And this pandemic has made that even more apparent. If I were to choose the thing that I was super looking forward to, it would definitely be another edition of Nathan Chen vs. Yuzuru Hanyu. 

What has it been like living in NYC during the pandemic? What have you done to keep mentally and physically fit?
New York City has been eerie, to say the least, though definitely more so in late March/early April when the stay-at-home orders were originally in place. The past few weeks have felt a bit more “normal” – more people are outside, but it’s still sparse enough that there’s lots of distance between people.

Mentally, there’s been a good bit of Headspace meditation, and between (non-skating) work and board games, my mind has been pretty busy. I try to, and sometimes succeed at, trying to find the right balance between things that are mentally-taxing and things that are mentally-relaxing. Physically, I’ve been putting a 5-minute block on my work calendar every three hours or so to remind myself to do a quick 3-5 minute workout. Depending on my energy during that time of day, I might use that time to do a couple sets of crunches or push-ups, or I might just use that time to stand up and stretch. Working from home can be really unstructured, so self-imposed structure is often a good thing.

Have you been communicating with the skating community during these times? What do you anticipate will be the biggest challenges if and when the athletes return to competition?
I’ve texted back and forth with skaters to just check-in, especially when Instagram stories naturally lead to banter. Nick McCarvel and I have also been doing a few Instagram Lives before a few of the big events that the skating community has done, like Open Ice and Blades for the Brave. It’s been great to see the skating community redirect some of their energy to helping during the pandemic.

On the return to competition point, we don’t even really know when that first competition is even going to happen, so there’s that uncertainty that looms over everyone’s head. When skaters do return to full-time training, and it’ll likely be very much a staggered return depending on geography, the toughest part for them and their teams will be to figure out how to train and peak for a season that has a whole bunch of moving parts. It’s difficult to see any answers being available anytime soon.