Brian Zhao: IMO 2022 Report
The 63nd IMO was held in Oslo, Norway. It was truly exciting to travel so f a r from home and be among so many talented young mathematicians that I have only met on Discord before. The legendary members and staff of the NZ team, Ross, Josie, May, Grady, Eric2, Eric3, Brena, James and I,
assembled launched our attack from multiple sites on the hardest high school maths competition with the highest medal cutoffs of our generation
A typical trip starts with a 20-hour-long flight. The torturously long plane trip was a testimony to how much human buttock can endure, but this could not deter us from accomplishing remarkable feats like solving shortlist 2002G7 (cringe), fraternising with the crew, and watching Morbius(2022). The Australians also made an unexpected appearance in the Dubai airport. Thankfully, we are seated 10 rows apart from them and the plane landed safely.
A week of intense training followed, during which we sat and marked three mocks, scaled countless
mountains hills, swam across a river, and sprinted 42 loops with the Dutch team. We also learnt a few op theorems, such as combinatorial nullstellensatz and Zsigmondy's theorem. During this period, we explored Oslo's unique culture and cuisine, including their preference of bronze cheese, raw broccoli, naked bronze statues and pride flags.
On the day before moving into the official hotel, everyone was hyped. There was a mock in the morning and a hunt for the Chilean team in the afternoon. However, in the wake of our excitement, something seems to be missing...
Where is James?
While we were busy
staging playing coup in Norway, James was on a different quest. There were so many nuances in this story that it deserves a report on its on. Instead, here is a summary: he ventured far into the lush grassland of Mongolia and started his attack on the problems there, 5877km from Oslo; an attack that would see him as the 12th silver medalist from NZ. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.
The IMO itself:
"We beat you in football."
Arriving at the premise, we were immediately welcomed by the Costa Rican team, who seemed rather enthusiastic about sports. More teams soon joined, and thus we finished our lunch with 10 more followers on instagram. Afterwards, our guide August led us on a tour to the palace and the main street, where IMO banners greeted our presence. However, the majority of the day was spent at a laundromat. The next day sees the opening ceremony, during which I had the honour to carry the flag. The day after was spent on excursions and games, due to strict instruction to avoid maths from the team leadership. However, as contest day 1 approaches, everyone's thought was elsewhere.
Late into the night, I contemplated over my preparations. I had 1 more year of practice, yet one hole, one weak spot remained unfulfilled. Ah yes, that familiar chill had a name: inequality.
Inequality! The sore of my eye, the bane of my existence. After 2 consecutive years, and with a new PSC, I was certain that it would not appear again, and definitely not as Q2. As it turned out, my prediction was wrong once again.
Contest days 11th-12th July
6:30am. Time to rise and grind. First I did was to grab breakfast. Sausage, cereal, egg, cheese, cabbage, yoghurt, bread. Bus left at 7. I sat down at 4D07M, every minute already planned out. Nap at 7:45, toilet at 8:15, more paper at 8:30, another toilet break at 10-
The clock striked 8:30. Immediately, I raised the more-paper card. When the invigilator came, I already had a draft solution for Q1 in mind. Moving on to Q2, I was bamboozled by the functional inequality, but there was no time to cry. Sub in 0, sub in 1, try polynomials, move onto Q3.
"The question time is over." The invigilator announced in a booming voice. I swiftly grabbed a new page and started writing down my Q1 solution. However, my luck ended here, as I realised a critical error and took over an hour to fix it. An hour of algebraic sorcery ensued, as I began my battle with Q2 and arrived at a contradiction. This was followed by an excruciating and fruitless struggle through the muddy trenches of Q3 number theory. Finally, the exam ended in the invigilator's monotone.
Walking out of the room, I felt a slight sense of elation. After all, I had solved 2 problems and was on track to a silver. However, this was overshadowed by a penetrating fear - Q2 was easy, almost too easy. Sure enough, I soon discovered that it was a fakesolve.
Over the coming days, I would gradually understand the full extent of the cost of this mistake, as my expectations for a medal turned from silver to bronze to nothing. But at the time, the only thing in my mind was a numbness, as my brain prepared itself for the next day. I made several swift calculations: I could get 720 for day 1, which, with 770 on day 2, should be enough for a silver. The next day was pretty much the same as before, with me solving Q4 fairly quickly, and failing to solve Q5. With that, the main part of my IMO journey ended in a sigh.
I would very much love to give more details on what happened after the contest. It was a wild mix of celebrations, condolences, laughter, tears, songs, dances, joy and disappointment. However, it is 3am, and I need sleep. So here is a brief account:
12th July: Partied with the South Americans late into night.
13th July: Watched sunrise. Went rock-climbing
14th July: Went to a theme park. Rollercoaster was fun.
15th July: Medal ceremony without a medal.
16th July: Left official hotel. Went to escape room.
17th July: Flight back to NZ.