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Athens set to challenge New Zealand Olympians

Media Release July 2, 2004

Athens set to challenge New Zealand Olympians

Some of our youngest Olympians are ready to test their skills against the world's best in Athens, at the 2004 International Mathematical Olympiad this month.

Six students have been chosen to compete at the Maths Olympiad after a rigorous selection process involving more than 100 students was narrowed down to the final eight (including two non-travelling reserves) at a week long camp and a four and half hour long exam.

"The level of students has been outstanding," says Gordon Hookings, a retired Associate Professor at the Faculty of Science at The University of Auckland.

Since they were selected, the team has competed at the Asia Pacific Maths Olympiad and performed well.

"The Asia Pacific competition usually acts as a good barometer for the world-wide competition so we are expecting some good results in Athens," says Mr Hookings.

Mr Hookings, now in his 80s, is the Secretary of the New Zealand Mathematical Olympiad Committee and has been involved in the selection of Kiwi teams since the first team left for Canberra in 1988.

"It's a wonderful feeling to see the students get so excited and continually advance in such an intellectual environment. It's a great platform for building interest in maths", says Mr Hookings.

The Department of Mathematics, at The University of Auckland, offers coaching and support to the team leading up to the event.

The team will be led by Dr Arkadii Slinko, a senior lecturer in the Mathematics Department and Simon Marshall, a second year Maths student at the University and the only kiwi to win gold at the Mathematics Olympiad.

This year's team consists of Eric Kang (St Bede's College, Christchurch), James Liley (Dunstan High School, Alexandra), Heather Macbeth (Burnside High School, Christchurch), James McKaskill (Christ's College, Christchurch), Jethro van Ekeren (Hamilton Boy's High School) and Eve Waddington (Craighead Diocesan, Timaru). The reserves are Angela Gao (Pakuranga College, Auckland) and Jennifer Huang (Diocesan School for Girls, Auckland).

The team go to Athens in early July, where they will compete with students from some 80 other countries. Questions will be posed from various areas of mathematics, like those in the maths curricula, however, the solutions require exceptional mathematical ability and knowledge on the part of the students, who have to solve the problems individually.

New Zealand has won many medals since it began sending teams to the Maths Olympiad in 1988 and Mr Hookings says the 2004 team intends to carry on the tradition.


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