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  • Writer's pictureAnca Mustata

Ireland’s participation at the 63rd International Mathematical Olympiad in Oslo, 6-16 July 2022

Updated: Aug 6, 2022

From left to right: Taiga, Xiang, Emily, Rory, James, Fionn

The 63rd International Mathematical Olympiad took place in Oslo, on 6-16 July 2022. Ireland was represented by

Fionn Kimber O’Shea, 4th year, Christian Brothers College, Wellington Road, Cork

Taiga Murray, 6th year, St Benildus College, Kilmacud, Dublin 14

James Chen, 5th year, Castletroy College, Castletroy, Co. Limerick

Xiang Lian, 4th year, The Teresian School, Donnybrook, Dublin 4

Emily Wolfe, 5th year, Bruce College, St. Patrick’s Hill, Cork

Rory Moore, 6th year, Castletroy College, Castletroy, Co. Limerick

together with the team leader Mark Flanagan from UCD and deputy Anca Mustata from UCC. The IMO 2022 Irish team score was the highest ever achieved by an Irish team at the IMO. Five of the team have earned Honourable Mentions, four of whom completely solved 2 problems – a first for Ireland in 35 years of IMO participation. Below is a short account of the Irish team training and IMO participation.

To select a team for the competition, the IMT ran the 35th Irish Mathematical Olympiad on 7th May. Along with the team, a larger group of 24 students were selected for the Irish squad, who were invited to attend a first training camp on 8-10th June at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick. The camp, organised by Bernd Kreussler, had lessons on Algebra run by Bernd Kreussler, Combinatorics (Ronan Flatley and Anna Mustata), Geometry (Andrei Mustata and Jim Leahy) and Number Theory (Bernd Kreussler and Gordon Lessells). The participants also sat a three and a half hours practice exam.

During the interval 10th-25th June, two of the team members sat the Leaving Cert exams. The team completed a self-diagnostic form and a test designed to identify areas of strength and weaknesses. The next training camp on 25-27 June focused on introducing new topics and techniques, while the camps after that were dedicated mostly to increasing the areas of strength showed by the team. The Maynooth University Mathematics Department generously offered its space for the 25-27 June camp with lectures on Algebra by Mark Flanagan, and Andrew Smith; Combinatorics, Geometry, Number Theory and test solutions by Anca Mustata. UCD hosted another short camp on 30 June -1 July. The lectures were given by Neil Dobbs (Algebra), Mayya Golitsyna (Geometry) and Kevin Hutchinson (Number Theory), while in the evening the team met with Fiona Roche, representing the sponsors SIG – with whom they had an interesting discussion on the current state of the trading industry.

The final training camp for the team took place in Bergen, Norway, during 2-9 July. The team left Dublin on 1st July, but some chaotic flight rescheduling by the beleaguered company SAS led to a one-day delay in arrival.

The team didn’t waste the time, even running a training session in the hotel hallway. Once in Bergen, the team enjoyed the amazingly comfortable and homey training facilities generously offered by Simula UIB, Gold Sponsors of IMO 2022. The trainers were the team leader Mark Flanagan and deputy Anca Mustata, together with Anna and Andrei Mustata, on their independent stay in Bergen. The camp covered the same 4 topics as earlier but with a pronounced emphasis on Combinatorics and Geometry – which turned out to be very much in line with the first problems of the two day IMO exams. After full days of training, the team members would often remained behind to play chess and boardgames in the Simula UIB common room. On 6th July, the team leader Mark Flanagan left for the official IMO venue in Oslo, to begin work as jury member. He worked with the jury on setting up the papers until the 9th July, when he unfortunately got a positive Covid diagnostic, which forced him to stay in isolation for the rest of the event.

The team on Mount Ulrike.

The team continued their work till 9th July, with a short break to hike up Mount Ulriken, and to celebrate James’ birthday and share a good-bye cake with the Simula UIB team. The day of 9th July was spent travelling from Bergen to Oslo by ferry and train – enjoying the beauty of the fjords and the countless waterfall, but mostly solving past IMO problems along the way.

Once in Oslo, the team was warmly welcomed by their guide Maren Fassbender Paulsen and the local organisers. On 10th July, after a relatively short and pleasant opening ceremony, they visited the Oslo port and got to know some of the other teams. The first exam day, 11th of July, was very exciting. The team members worked hard and it soon became apparent that five of them have correctly solved Problem 1 (Combinatorics). Even though their answers and methods varied in form, they were all complete and well written – thus the Irish average score for this problem exceeded the overall average. The youngest member of the team also had a very good start for this problem. Some of the more experienced team members also made good progress on Problem 2 (Algebra), and would have probably finished were it not for the time and psychological limits (as historically it’s been very rare for an Irish team member to finish 2 of the 3 problems in a day). The second day was also very successful. Four team members completely solved Problem 4 (Geometry). A fifth member, Xiang found the correct strategy and was just one step away from the solution. Two team members had difficulties with the diagram which unfortunately made it difficult to solve the problem for James, and wasted some precious time for Fionn. All in all, four team members – Taiga, Fionn, Emily and Rory – solved two problems at this IMO, a first for Ireland. Problem 5 (Number Theory) also saw some very good ideas, with five team members scoring points for this problem.

On the next two days the contestants could fully relax and enjoy the events. On 13th July, the team and their guide Maren visited the Oslo science centre, where they enjoyed the interactive activities and the inspirational speech by winter Olympics gold medalist Astrid Uhrenhold Jacobsen. They finished the day at the Hub – a special place for games and socialising. The full day was also Taiga’s birthday. The next day was no less exciting - a visit to the Tusenfryd adventure park with its heart-stopping rides. During this time the deputy leader completed the marking together with the problem coordinators – who insure that the same marking standards are applied uniformly across all countries. This all went very smoothly and collegially. The awards were announced late in the evening of 14th July, and celebrated with a closing ceremony and a party on the 15th July. The team ended their Oslo adventure with a trip by e-scooters, a visit to the famous Vigeland Sculpture Park and hanging out with team Ukraine.

The official results of team Ireland at IMO 2022 are here:

It’s worth mentioning this was a high-scoring IMO in general. This makes the team results no less impressive. Our contestants had an exceptionally steep learning curve in the period prior to the IMO. Apart from their individual strengths as problem solvers, they motivated and helped each other so as to bring out their best during the difficult exam conditions.

We wish to thank the hosts, our guide Maren and the sponsors for an unforgettable experience.


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