In the event that your computer crashes, or you need help organizing your taxes, don’t hesitate to call Rahul Francis.
Francis, a 13-year-old boy wonder from Flushing, will appear on “Jeopardy! Kid’s Week” to demonstrate his rare intellect on national television. The five-day tournament, which is for contestants between the ages of 10 and 12, airs on ABC at 7 p.m. starting July 4.
Francis began watching “Jeopardy!” at age nine with his father and admits the kid and teen tournaments are by far his favorite.
The first step he took in applying for the show was passing a 30-question, online test. The youths who pass are then auditioned in person. The auditions consist of another written test, a computerized round of Jeopardy, in order for producers to audit how the teens play the game and brief face-to-face interview. Francis was eventually chosen, along with 14 other contestants, from a group of approximately 200 participants.
Despite the rigorousness of the process, Francis assures he felt very little pressure, even when the cameras’ bright lights were shining on him, because he was not obsessed with winning.
“It was never about money or prizes,” said Francis. “It was the experience. Don’t worry whether you walk out with nothing or if you come out with $100,000. When you walk in you have nothing and when you come out you have at least the experience.” If Francis does win, he will take home with at least $15,000. Contestants who finish in second place in each game will earn $2,000, while third place receives $1,000.
Francis also applied for the tournament in 2009, but he failed the online test. This time, however, there was no doubt in the minds of the Jeopardy producers. “Rahul has the perfect combination of energy, smarts, tons of charm and a great sense of humor,” said Jeopardy Contestant Producer Maggie Speak. “All of the kids have to play well and Rahul was no different. He is a good game player.”
While many people may become boastful after being chosen for “Jeopardy!,” Francis appears to have emerged from the experience with greater humility. “It felt so unreal that I had been selected and that I was going to meet Alex Trebek,” said Francis. “I wonder ‘why me out of all the people who signed up.’ I’m still a little puzzled.”
Francis’ father, mother and sister were in Culver City, California for the taping of the show, along with his cousin and a close friend of the family. Although Francis may have been calm during the competition, his mother certainly was not. “Sometimes kids get nervous, but he was really in his element,” said Aruna Gohel.
“I was very nervous for him. Every time he got a question I was pinching my daughter and getting all excited.”
Francis, who is so technologically savvy that his teachers depend on him to fix any issues with their computers, says he enjoys performing the same activities as adults. His interests include doing paperwork, organizing materials and traveling. He is currently helping his father with his citizenship application, and aided his mother in organizing her most recent tax return.
Despite his immense brain power, Francis’ 97 grade-point average was only second best in his seventh-grade class at Junior High School 194 in Whitestone. “The person who has the best is moving away next year, so that’s good,” he said with a laugh.