Olympic Medalists in … maths

The Olympic team of the Department of Mathematics immediately after the awards ceremony in Iasi, Romania. From left to right: Ioannis Vaxevanakis, Georgia Souli, Stefanos Lappas, Spyros Kakaroumpas, Andreas Kostakiotis, Ioannis Tsokanos, Jacobus van der Weele, Maria Christina van der Weele, Dimitris Georgiou.

What could the connecting thread be amongst a Taekwondo Champion, a young lady playing the piano, a music lover wearing headphones, a teacher of Argentinian Tango, an aspiring tennis player, and a student skilled in ping pong? Answer: their common passion for Mathematics. A passion that led them to the Department of Mathematics at the University of Patras, where they met each other, became a team, and from there onwards travelled together to the city of Iasi in Romania to represent the University of Patras in the South-Eastern European Mathematics Olympiad for University Students (SEEMOUS 2014).

Their journey into the world of Mathematics started in October after a three-hour competition was announced and which aimed at selecting six 1st year and 2nd year students that would be able to represent the University of Patras. The chosen team consisted of Ioannis Tsokanos (Gold medalist), Maria Christina van der Weele (silver medalist), Andreas Kostakiotis (silver medalist), Ioannis Vaxevanakis (bronze medalist), Georgia Souli (bronze medalist) and Stefanos Lappas. After being selected, they got together for weekly training seminars and finally travelled to Romania (4-9 March 2014), to participate in the Olympiad and winning 5 out of a total of 11 medals for Greece. Spyros Kakaroumpas (a third-year student, last year's gold winner, and now Observer), Dimitris Georgiou (Assoc. Professor in the Department of Mathematics, Team leader) and Jacobus van der Weele (Professor of Mathematics, Deputy Team leader) met again this year to support and accompany the new team. Professor Stavros Kourouklis also played an important role during their intensive training seminars. Upon the return of the successful team, on March 19, the Rectorate Authorities organized a special ceremony in order to congratulate the team on behalf of the entire Academic community, and to present them with Honorary Certificates. During the ceremony, the students and their coaches thanked the Academic Community for their support and shared stories and personal experiences from their journey to Romania. The Rector, Professor George Panayiotakis, stressed that in his view the students who work hard to acquire knowledge are today's real revolutionaries; and that the young generation should not adopt a passive attitude towards life, but go ahead and live it. A particularly moving moment came when upon receiving his Honorary Certificate the gold medalist Ioannis Tsokanos stated to all present "Let us not rest now, but go on working".

What is the secret behind this success? The spirit of the team! Characteristically, the team leader stated: "We were one. An individual effort will bring you one step forward, a team effort ten." They are Mathematicians that know about numbers. So we may safely take their word for it.

[by Christina Kouimountzi and Katerina Karanikola]