This year I was fortunate to be part of the New Zealand Mathematical Olympiad Team that travelled to Athens to compete in the 45th International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO).
After months of training, the six members of the New Zealand Mathematical Olympiad team, assembled in Auckland for a few days of final preparations at the end of June, before departing for Greece on July 2nd. Because we had travelled over a bit before the Olympiad started, we spent a week on a beautiful Greek Island, Paros, where, as well as doing maths, we were able to do some sightseeing, swimming, souvenir shopping and eat plenty of the Greek food souvlaki. It was on the island that we met up with the film crew (who are making a documentary about the IMO team and our trip), who then stayed with us for the rest of the trip.
After an amazing week, we then travelled back to Athens for the start of the IMO. We were first met by our lovely guide, Demy, who helped look after us for our time at the IMO, before heading to our hotel in central Athens. The opening ceremony followed a couple of days later, which was an unforgettable experience, seeing so many people from so many different cultures. The next two days we had the exams which were, of course, challenging, but much what we had expected. Once they were over we really started to enjoy ourselves and started meeting the members of the teams from the other countries, with every one a lot more relaxed. Over the next few days we were treated to many organised trips to famous sights in and around Athens such as the Acropolis. I found these trips breathtaking, as I had seen many of these places in books, but never imagined how amazing they would be up close. When we had free time, we were able to take the metro around Athens to do some shopping, however most of the time we were quite happy just soaking up the sun at the pool on the hotel roof, spending time with the many new friends we had met.
At the end of the week we had the closing ceremony, which was just as impressive as the opening, with some great musical performances. It was here that the medals were presented, with Heather and Jethro doing very well and gaining Bronze medals for New Zealand. The closing ceremony was then followed by one of the highlights of the week, the banquet. The banquet was very enjoyable, with delicious food, great music and dancing until the early hours of the morning. It was also a little sad though, as for most teams this was their last night in Greece. Once we got back to the hotel many teams continued celebrating all night. The next day it was time to exchange emails and say good bye to all the amazing people we had met, many of whom we still email regularly, before all the teams caught their flights home.
The New Zealand team arrived home tired but with many great memories of this unforgettable experience, an experience that wouldn’t have been possible without the help of our sponsors. For me personally, I have found the whole Olympiad program very rewarding, not just because of the amazing trip we had but because I have become fascinated by the mathematics we study and the challenge of trying to solve maths Olympiad problems. For these reasons, I am very keen to give the Olympiad another go next year as well.