How I trained for the International Mathematics Olympiads: Aussie gold medallist


A young mathematics whiz from Sydney has won gold at an International Olympiad.

Sydney teenager Seyoon Ragavan has won gold at the International Mathematics Olympiads.

Seyoon spent up to eight hours a day preparing in the lead-up to the competition, and did hundreds of practice tests.

He was a bronze medallist at two previous mathematics Olympiads but this year he took home gold.

His result helped the Australian team place sixth in the world, its best result ever.

The 16-year-old Knox Grammar student said he was elated when he heard the news.

"I sprinted into the rec room and I was screaming at the top of my voice 'we came sixth',” he said. “I was over the moon."

The International Mathematics Olympiad is the world's premier mathematics competition for high-school students.

It is notoriously difficult and Seyoon said he was feeling the pressure.

"I was definitely very nervous,” he said. "I had to take a lot of time out just for myself in the immediate lead up to the exams. This may be a competition but for those hours it's just you versus the exam."

The event was held last week in Thailand and attracted 600 competitors from 104 countries.

Mike Clapper, executive director of the Australian Mathematics Trust, said it was hard to comprehend the competitors' talent.

"We are talking about problems which most people wouldn't even understand what they were about, so they're extremely difficult problems," he said.

Seyoon said his affinity for numbers wasn't always obvious.

"When I was four or five, I was struggling with basic addition and subtraction,” he said. “My parents love to rub it in now."

Today it's a different story.

"Once I think about a problem it just stays in my head wherever I go," he said. 'Sometimes an idea will just come to my mind and I will get out a piece of paper and get it down before I forget it."

Aside from maths, Seyoon also loves debating and music - particularly Indian percussion instruments, which he says are a good outlet from the stress of competition. 

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch