Thursday 19 July 2012

Singaporean tops International Mathematical Olympiad 2012 with perfect score

By Matthias Chew, The Straits Times, 18 Jul 2012

STUDENT Lim Jeck has become the first Singaporean to clinch the top spot in a prestigious mathematics competition.

The 17-year-old beat 547 other youngsters to rank first in this year's edition of the International Mathematical Olympiad in Mar del Plata, Argentina.

In the week-long contest which ended on Sunday, pre-university students attempted to solve six questions, each worth up to seven points. The top 9 per cent were awarded gold medals.

Jeck's perfect score of 42 was a first for a Singaporean, and the only one in this year's competition. He pipped South Korea's Kim Dong Ryul, who scored 40, and Bobby Shen of the United States, who scored 39.

The National University of Singapore (NUS) High School student's win meant he went one better than last year, when he finished second.

Then 16, he qualified for a gold medal along with three other teammates. The four-gold haul was Singapore's best showing to date, and the six-man team placed third overall. But this year, the Republic slipped to seventh out of 100 countries, with Jeck the only gold medallist.

NUS High's Ling Yan Hao, and Raffles Institution's (RI) Ryan Kor and Lee You Jun took silver, while Lawrence Li from RI and Ang Yan Sheng from NUS High took bronze.

South Korea came in first, with all six team members taking gold. China placed second while the US came in third.

Singapore started taking part in the 53-year-old competition in 1988. Before last year, it had won gold only once, in 1996.

The Straits Times was unable to reach Jeck yesterday, as the Republic's team was in the midst of travelling home. They are expected to arrive in Singapore this afternoon.

Jeck's father, businessman Lim Beng Cheng, told The Straits Times that this was the fourth time his son had taken part in the competition.

He won bronze at his first attempt in 2009, when he was just 14, and silver in 2010.

Medals are typically given only to the top 50 per cent of competitors each year.

Jeck discovered his love for maths in primary school, by solving maths problems posted by others on the Internet, said his father.

He added: 'We didn't train him at all, and none of our children have tuition.'

Besides Jeck, Mr Lim has two daughters - Lim Min, 18, who attends RI and Lim Li, 13, who attends NUS High.

Mr Lim also praised NUS High for helping his son 'build a very strong maths foundation'.

He added: 'Jeck's next step is to start some maths research, but because he is still very young, we will move on very slowly and not put stress on him.'

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