Sunday 23rd July 2023

Boning Dai: IMO 2023 Report

Days -7 to -3:

The team trains at Auckland University. I do alright on the mocks, filling me with unfounded confidence for the real IMO.

Day -2:

I arrived at the airport at 5:30 am, intending to sleep on the flight. Before boarding, we purchase a sheep labeled “New Zealand Champion”, an ironic statement since New Zealand has not once won the IMO. I suggest naming the sheep Ramsey, after the famous mathematician Frank Ramsey, which is accepted. On the flight, I do not manage to sleep, and instead mostly watch movies while occasionally looking at the maths problems the others are doing. It is sweltering when we arrive in Japan, spoiling my long-awaited freedom. After a hot and tiring slog through airport security, we pile into the air-conditioned bus and arrive at the hotel, where we purchase food from Lawson’s (which will be a common theme in the coming days). I sleep well, although Haotian feels a bit sick from the plane flight.

Day -1:

Haotian has fortunately recovered overnight and comes with us on an excursion. We take the train from the hotel to the Imperial Palace, where we wait in 35°C heat for the Netherlands team. It is indeed so hot that even the koi gather in the shade. We decide we have had enough after a while and take the train to Akihabara, where we eat ramen and lose money at an arcade. Michael tries to win a chainsaw dog plushie, but fails. We arrive at the hotel and officially check into IMO residence, and are awarded with a nice bag of IMO merchandise for our troubles. That night, we look at the Jane Street hub, which offers snacks in excess and an air hockey table, the puck for which has gone mysteriously missing.

Day 0:

At lunch, the organisers do not account for the sudden influx of countries arriving for the opening ceremony and there is not enough food to be found. We elect to get lunch at Lawson’s again instead of standing around helplessly. During the opening ceremony, we see Ross for the first time since team training. He smiles at us, striking fear into our hearts for what the questions will be like. I attempt to take a picture of every country present, but give up around the G’s. The chainsaw dog plushie reappears in the hands of the Ecuador team, who have piggybacked off Michael’s failure to nab it for themselves. After dinner, Eric drags me to the public baths, which are too hot. Haotian elects not to come for fear of exposure.

Day 1:

The first day of the IMO. I take my previously-prepared snacks (coffee jelly and Pocky), in a clear IMO-regulation ziploc bag. During the exam, I solve the first problem in 40 minutes and spend the rest of the time staring at the geometry problem, which I do not make any progress on. Afterwards, a Canadian tells me that P3 was actually easier than P1. I am rightfully skeptical, and sleep resolving to do better tomorrow.

Day 2:

I did not do better tomorrow. P4 is an easy inequality in which I spend half the time pairing up terms, which turns out to be the completely wrong approach. Instead, one was expected to use AM-GM, realise that the problem is only satisfied in the equality case, and derive a contradiction from there. P5 takes up the remainder of my time, where I try cases for a while before realising that my conjecture for the final answer is completely wrong and coming up with another answer, which turns out to also be wrong. Not my best work, but at least my score is nonzero.

Day 3:

IMO sponsored an excursion to Disneyland today, ostensibly to get us away from the hotel so the scripts can be marked. Eric, Brian, and Michael leave to go to the bathroom while we are in the queue and get a few dirty looks when they return and skip to the front to reunite with us. The rides are fun, although there seems to be more shops than rides. I soon get tired of standing in line, but the atmosphere is fantastic for fans of Disney. After lunch, we go on a few more rides. Most of the team wants to go on Splash Mountain, which has a 75 minute wait, which is way too long. I instead leave to browse the shops with Dawn, who agrees with me.

Day 4:

I stay in the hotel with Eric and Brian so we can go to the nearby mall. We lose money at the arcade, eat some remarkably sweet crepes, and visit the beach, which we could not swim in for fear of Fukushima contamination. We arrive back at the hotel late, and fall asleep quickly.

Day 5:

The day of the closing ceremony. Brian goes on stage to receive his bronze medal holding Ramsey, who has been shoved unceremoniously in a closet the past few days. At this year’s IMO, there are five perfect scorers, two from China, one from America, one from Korea, and one from Romania. After the ceremony, a trailer for IMO 2024 plays, showcasing the natural beauty of Bath along with a suspicious amount of sunlight for a British location. At the dinner party, I stick stickers onto the backs of several important people and then proceed to stay up all night to play Mao by tradition.

Day 6:

We leave Japan to fly back home. Ross debriefs each of us. The flight back seems much shorter this time because I was able to sleep on the plane. The farewells are bittersweet, mainly because I will be moving to America right after this IMO and will not be able to participate as part of the New Zealand team next year, but this IMO was a fantastic experience and the memories I made will stay with me for quite some time.

How has attending this event demonstrated greater knowledge of available career paths in science and technology?

At this event, I saw how passion was the most important part of finding a good job, as many people there were volunteers. I have also learnt that maths olympiad alumni are highly desired in several fields, such as finance and computer science.

How has attending this event enthused or inspired you to pursue science and technology careers?

This event has revealed the multitude of available paths for me to take in the future related to maths, as there were people from all backgrounds and many careers at the event. The Jane Street videos especially inspired me with stories of former maths olympians achieving successful careers.

Has attending this event changed how you feel about science or technology?

Before this event I had always known that maths was important in the modern world, but now I can see many more uses for maths that I previously thought were impossible.

How has attending this event and participating with like-minded students been of benefit to you?

I have been able to see the true extent of mathematical ability in this world and as a result, I have been motivated to improve my own abilities as well.

Now that you have had time to reflect about your experience, what have you learnt about yourself?

I have learnt that I still have room to improve my own skills and that I need to get better at geometry.

What did you enjoy about your experience?

I think this entire report answers this question sufficiently.