IMO 2014 (VI)-Travels and lectures

The two days (in fact, two and a half) were devoted for us as leisure, after two days of torture in front of six tough mathematical problems (in addition of grueling preparations). Why not enjoy ourselves in such a condition? Let us board the bus and know more about Cape Town.

Excursion Day 1: 10/7/2014

1. Cape Peninsular Tour (a.k.a. Penguin Tour)
2. Community Entertainment
3. Cape Point

Holiday mode (and mood) on! Though we had three main places for tour, there were two extra stopping for photo taking purpose. The first one, itself, was before the penguin tour and took place around 9:30 am-an excellent start for the day! That was probably because we had to get through the winding passage of hill (by bus) before getting into the penguin tour, and a photo session halfway would be breathtaking.

The scenery in front of hills (credit to my teammate by I forgot who he was :( )
The scenery in front of hills

How about penguin tour? Well, since this was not even the formal name of the tour, we should be aware that this tour included some other attractions as well, although the penguin sanctuary was the limelight of the attraction. Moreover, as the saying goes, the best part always come last: it took us some walk before we could enjoy the close-distance contact with the adorable penguins. It should be noted that Justin and I appropriated the pot of luck by witnessing penguins for two times in 3 years (last time being in IMO 2012), a rare opportunity hardly thought by any Malaysian.


Myriads of penguins enjoying sunbathe

We soon departed for the non-tourism station, where we spent our lunch there. Another series of African music show, but instead of Shosholoza, all songs presented were pop songs in English language: something we could understand its contents and appreciate with open heart.

The presentation was eclectic, ranging from the traditional dances:

Mother-and-son as dancers

to the skillful modern dances:

Warning: do not emulate

With singing accompanied with dances:

As for lunch, we finally had the chance to enjoy the buffet style dishes after the 2-choose-1 mode for few days. IMO 2014 on Google Plus took some pictures of us, and six of us were jointly captured in two photos:


The final station was the Cape Point excursion, which awarded us the best view of Cape Town. Listening to waves tapping gently, consistently, and rhythmically to the sea, and in front of you was nothing but endless sea. Oh I found myself closer to nature as opposed to the polluted city life!

Of course, here came the second stop near a bay for photo snapping:


And it was a waste not to leave memories with our national flag along:

10 Jul-Excursion to Cape Point

That was succeeded by the final destination of the day: Cape Point. In the plainest language, “no pain, no gain”. Therefore, even though we had to hike hills with mouth gasping for oxygen and limbs coping for fatigue, we shouldn’t be complaining, since the bird’s eye view in front of us was the symbol of success!

The goal from afar
Goal from afar
Panoramic view from Cape Point. Achievement unlocked :D
Panoramic view from Cape Point. Achievement unlocked 😀

Every contestant was expected to be contented by these excursions by 4pm, and that was when the bus left for UCT (one hour journey). A colourful experience for our little booklet of life, no? Yes, it was.

Tonight we finally managed to watch the replay match of FIFA world semi-finals that we missed after the first exam. There were some extraordinary moments underlying, with a team scoring 4 goals in 6 minutes. In terms of enjoyment, it was futile, however, since we missed the selection of African Dance team to be performing in front of the public in Sport Hall the next day.

Day 2: Lectures and games
The morning was another intellectual session with talks to discerning young mathematicians around the world, and there were three, in fact. We had one hour for each lecture, with a short break.

The first one was a former IMO gold medallist discoursing a problem which was still open: is it possible to partition any convex polygon into n polygons of equal area and perimeter? Simple brain activity: meaningless statement for n=1, and for n=2 it was just the matter of using intermediate value theorem. While the topic was elementary idea for any layman to digest about, the insight was beyond what we learnt in school (or even in IMO training program). Using series of obscure mapping theory, the conclusion of validity for any prime power n was justified. How about for other numbers?

The lecturer and his topic
The lecturer and his topic

The second one, surprisingly, was about physics. Mathematics works hand-in-hand with physics, but sorry, I could understand nothing about it.


The last lecture was a collaboration between number theory and geometry: given a circle of radius 1 and three circles internally tangent to it and mutually tangent to each other, all having radius 1/n. Then all other circles constructed using the same way would have radius 1/n as well.

But for which n would the radius be valid? My brain followed the lecture clumsily and noted the idea of sum of two squares, but the detail was getting me nowhere.


Ok, enough with lectures (whether you can comprehend or not), now take a lunch break.

Beef wrap
Beef wrap: nom nom!

The afternoon program was known as “African Dance and Games”, combining two “sport-like” activities (indeed, if chess is considered as sports, why not board games?) We returned to Sports Hall, with no tables arranged for contest now.

Panoramic spam on the Sports Hall, again :P
Panoramic spam on the Sports Hall, again 😛

What was the dance about? This time the instructor threw us basic concepts of dancing, with baby steps of expanding and contracting circle, following some rhythm. Having missed the selection test the night before, we paid our debt back by watching the live performance of dance show, with Mojalefa showing is fervor to it by tapping drum.


A sports activity, if you are happy with this example:


The board game gave a sense of deja vu since the game structure was almost homogeneous to “congkak” in Malaysia (Oops! Name of game forgotten) : marble balls with holes. Though the game rule which differed from original, but who cared? After losing a congkak board during the journey to Argentina for IMO 2012, it was time for compensation to enjoy the game with lost, and learning some modifications from it at the same time.

Shazryl and Zi Song: who would win?

Problem 6: c>1
That’s the captivating title pasted at the Baxstar Hall, thanks to USA leader, Mr. Po-Shen Loh who proved that c=square root ln n is feasible for all n. A tremendous leap of the boundary, where you can fix it as large as you want. Consequently, there shouldn’t be any surprise that he was asked to present a lecture on it, and it was properly scheduled after the final jury meeting at 10 pm.

Loh is an erudite in probabilistic method, hence the team under his coaching marched victoriously to a brilliant 33/42 in Liar’s Guessing Game, the most difficult problem in IMO 2012. Before showing his big guns, he skillfully proved to us the original IMO problem in 5 minutes, which was already impressive. The improved bound, however, demanded energy both from Loh and from audience, with 90 minutes of verbal explanation and 90 minutes of concentration, respectively. Again, that felt like rocket science to me, and I could only understand basic threshold concept of graph theory employed in it.

The moment of truth
Where were our leaders and deputy leaders? Unfortunately, they couldn’t be with us since they were involved in marking of our papers: the coordination process. As usual, it went problems by problems. This year, Mr. Suhaimi “appointed” me as agent and sent our scores to us once the coordination was done.

Although coordination of some problems (e.g. P1 and P6 for Malaysia) was unanimous (with total score of 42 and 0 being the most observable difference), leaders had to contend with coordinators on some contentious script. This usually happened in intermediate combinatorial problems, like P2 (and even P5) this year.

The release of score was in mixed feelings: anxious to know what was the outcome, disappointed for having scores docked although one solved it, delighted for scoring more than expected, and eventually, feeling accomplished in the end for splendid overall performance: we scored 129 with everyone scoring at least 2 full credits in total, marking the 5th year in a row in record-breaking.

Malaysian scoreboard
Malaysian scoreboard

For me, my heart dipped when I received a 1 for P3 (slightly less than expectation), but a 7 for problems 1,2,4,5 was a blessing to me, clearing all my paranoid of having unexpected cut of score.

Finally, how could the medal boundary be? Looking at the scoreboard of teams, the hope retrieved again: Justin and I had even chance in winning gold medals that we missed for the past two years. While we hoped for the ultimate accomplishment, it made us nervous and thinking about it from time to time: this ambivalence was worse than that of hopeless.

29. Silver or gold. Except for Zi Song, we closed our eyes and found ourselves in the auditorium, listening to the rumble of drum set without knowing when would the last hit of cymbal be, until……

10:07 pm, the big fat news. The jury meeting was held at night, agenda ranging from the formality of approving all scores, coordination and process of IMO, to future consideration and improvement in organisation of IMO. The final agenda, which would extricate contestants from tension would be decision of cut-off points. Mr. Suhaimi then sent his last results-related news to us:
“Official: Gold 29, silver 22, bronze 16. Good job all.”
Oh what a beautiful night, where Justin and I hit it on the dot! I remembered turning into a complete psycho by exclaiming “Yes! Yes! Yes!” without caring how many people were looking at this monkey recently escaped from the zoo. Malaysia won its 2nd and 3rd gold medal in a try after 2 gold drought.

As for overall performance, we came 23rd among 101 countries, and broke various records in a row: the 5th record breaking in scores and ranking thus complemented each other perfectly like key and lock.Following is the Malaysian full results:

With ubiquitous WiFi coverage in UCT, Justin, a triumphant soldier, acclaimed our achievement to the rest of the world:

Extract on Justin's speech on victory occasion
Extract on Justin’s speech on victory occasion, ending it with “Malaysia Boleh!”

It may be aggrieved for two of us for missing the bronze cut off narrowly by 1 or 2 points, but everyone acknowledged that life was cruel. Zi Song, on the other hand, missed the 3 youngest bronze medalist in IMO history by just a few weeks, but anyhow this proved him as a genuine child prodigy.

Finally, for the third night, the “Law” of 10pm-to-bed restriction was abrogated.

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