Sunday 23rd July 2023

Haotian Wang: IMO 2023 Report

This year, the IMO was held in Chiba, Japan at the start of July. There were 618 contestants from 112 participating countries. New Zealand placed 64th equal in the world at the 64th IMO which was intentional (we could’ve got at least 2nd in the world but chose not to).


Day 1

Problem 1: This problem was quite easy. However, I managed to misread the problem and write a complete solution to my own version of problem 1 until I finally read the problem again and realised my mistake.

Problem 2: After the IMO, there was a debrief when Ross, Josie and Kevin went over the solutions to the problems. Ross said there were over 20 solutions to this problem – I found 0 of these solutions.

Problem 3: I’m pretty sure I didn’t try this problem.

In the evening, I was going down the elevator for dinner. There were three people – a guy from Canada, a guy from Mexico (I think), and me. It was quiet, but then the guy from Canada suddenly initiated the conversation with “wow!! We have the same last name!!” and began talking to me about the problems. He explained how he solved problem 3 in “15 minutes” and that it was “routine” and “trivial”. I stood there speechless, but kept nodding as if to show agreement. Then he said that problem 1 was more difficult than problem 3 (?????). Finally, he talked about problem 2. He was very sad when he told me that he was ultimately unable to solve it. This is when the Mexican joined the conversation and said to him, “you didn’t solve problem 2?!?!?!?! I feel bad for you.” This was quite the depressing experience.

Day 2

Problem 4: no

Problem 5: I somehow managed to get 3 marks for problem 5. I learnt from the pre-IMO training camp to always write down everything, and I guess it worked out. During the debrief, I realised that I had actually gotten even further then what I submitted. However, I unfortunately made that progress when I was walking to the toilets, and did not realise that it was actually useful, so I never wrote it down.

Problem 6: I maybe spent 2 minutes trying this problem.

Another thing that happened on Day 2 was my double toilet break incident. For context, in the IMO, an invigilator takes you to the toilets, which are quite far away so it is very costly in time.

Anyways, I went to the toilet and got back to my table with a refreshed mind, ready to continue doing the problems. Oh no, I forgot to pee – I kind of just blew my nose and left. I looked up and see the same invigilator who just walked me to the toilets. He might think I’m a bit suspicious if I ask to go again so I was very conflicted. I wasted a lot of time making a decision here and eventually saw a different invigilator and went to the toilets again.

After the IMO


On the day following the IMO, all the teams went to Disneyland. I have pretty much forgotten about everything that happened already, so I can’t write much about this.

However, I do have a very lasting memory of a ride called ‘Splash Mountain’, where you sit in a log and go down a lot of water slides. I decided to follow Michael, but we realised that we would have to sit at the front of the log. It was too late now to change so we had to accept it. This ride was extremely not cool. The worst part was the cartoon rats everywhere that would hold signs saying “The Laughing Place”, almost mocking how unhappy me and Michael were.

At the end of the ride, we had to wait a bit to get off. While we sat there, a guy from the Dutch team (NZ is good friends with the Dutch) in the row behind handed us a bag and said “yo do you want some drops?” “Drops” is quite the suspicious name, but Michael took one, so I followed. Those things actually tasted so bad that I thought I just got drugged. Apparently, they were licorice, a Dutch specialty.

Meeting team China

By far the greatest highlight this trip was meeting members from my super idol team, team China. China is actually my favourite team. My second favourite team is United States of America, my third favourite is Korea and my fourth favourite is Romania. If you search up the country results for imo 2023, their ranking actually happens to exactly match my favourite countries by complete coincidence. This seems to imply that New Zealand is my 64 th equal favourite country, which I will not comment on.

Anyways, a member of team China who got a super cool 41/42 marks gave everyone in the team fridge magnets, which was a super cool present just like his super cool maths skills. I will cherish this gift for the rest of my maths career.

In conclusion, going to the IMO was a very fun experience. Unlike the others on the team, I really didn’t get to meet many other competitors since I was busy sleeping, but sleeping was quite fun as well.

I was asked to include some photos in the journal, but unfortunately, I only took one photo in total the whole trip because I kept forgetting to charge my phone or I just forgot it in the hotel room when we left.

Here is the only photo that I actually took. It was the lunch we had at Disneyland. I took the photo because my mum told me to take photos when I was talking to her the night before. I never took another photo again.

Since I’m already out of photos, I will now share some photos that the other team members generously sent to me.

I believe this is the German leader?
This was taken at the airport when we were leaving.

This is my favourite leader – Ross Atkins – being spotted at the IMO opening ceremony. The leaders sit in a separate area from the competitors.

Honourable mention recipient Boning Jerry Dai exhibiting his charisma as soon as we landed at the Japanese airport.

We went to a book store. These books were very good. However, they were not as good as “Euclidean Geometry in Mathematical Olympiads” by Evan Chen.

An IMO banner spotted outside the train station near the hotel where the competition took place.

Me and Michael spotting a dangerous stalker while having a conversation.

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

Presentations from numerous sponsors such as Jane Street and Huawei demonstrated how the ability to solve problems is useful everywhere.

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

I was already likely to do something involving science and technology before this event. The IMO has reaffirmed this desire.

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

The tragedies that unfolded at the IMO may have given me post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which could potentially impact my feelings towards maths.

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

I witnessed extremely high achieving students, which motivated me to keep working to become better.

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

I learned that I need to work hard and become better.