9:13 a.m., Nov. 12, 2009----Chris Gage, a senior organ performance major at the University of Delaware, spun and solved his way to victory while on a College Week episode of the game show Wheel of Fortune that aired on Wednesday, Nov. 11.
In the final round of regulation play, the speed round, Gage, a UD Honors Program student from Rumford, R.I., was able to successfully solve the puzzle and win enough money to let him advance to the bonus round. Gage won the game with $40,550 in cash and prizes, including a trip to Cancun, though he failed to solve the bonus puzzle.
“I'm never going to forget the phrase, 'There's always room for more,'” he said. “That was the puzzle that got me into the bonus round, and it was also definitely the most exciting puzzle for me. Waiting for my turn in that round seemed like an eternity. I will never underestimate the letter M, that's for sure.”
Gage applied to audition for the show this past spring and was randomly selected to audition to be a contestant in August. During the audition, Gage and his fellow college students played practice puzzles, took a written test and demonstrated their enthusiasm and spirit.
"About a week later, I got the call," Gage said, referring to being asked to be a contestant on the show. "And the rest is history."
Gage's day at the Boston Convention Center, where the episode was taped, started at 9 a.m., when he and his fellow collegiate contestants practiced spinning the wheel, calling out letters and expressing their enthusiasm.
“The wheel was heavy,” Gage said. “We had to practice a lot to spin it well, and my arm really hurt by the end of the day. What threw me off about the wheel was that we weren't allowed to look at the numbers as they went by, so the result of spinning was a mystery until [host] Pat [Sajak] told us what the wheel landed on.”
The contestants were also thoroughly informed of the rules of the game. “You never realize how complicated a game show is until you are read all the rules,” Gage said.
One of the most exciting moments for Gage was watching hosts Pat Sajak and Vanna White walk onstage for the first time. Meeting the hosts was a wonderful experience, Gage said, adding that Pat was funny and encouraging, just as he appears on television, while Vanna was lovely, as well.
Was Gage nervous about playing the game he typically plays in the comfort of family or roommates in front of a live studio audience at the Boston Convention Center?
“The Wheel of Fortune producers did a great job transforming my nervousness into excitement,” he said. “But, once the lights went on and the cameras started rolling, I definitely felt the pressure.”
Now that Gage has appeared on Wheel of Fortune, he said he has achieved one of his lifetime goals, to be on a game show. Choosing to audition for the College Week edition of Wheel of Fortune turned out to be the final piece that was needed to solve that puzzle.
“Since I enjoy playing Wheel of Fortune at home, I decided on a whim that I would sign up for an audition,” he said. “I'm so glad I did.”
As for the $40,550 question, what Gage is going to do with the money he won, he said he was not sure just yet, but he did say he will probably be taking many of his friends out for coffee in the near future.
Article by Jon Bleiweis
Photo by Carol Kaelson