fbpx Alex Song ’15 Breaks IMO Record with Five Golds | Phillips Exeter Academy

Alex Song ’15 Breaks IMO Record with Five Golds

July 21, 2015
Alex Song

Song receives a standing ovation at the 2015 IMO.

It all came down to number 1 for Zhuo Qun ”Alex” Song ’15, the top scorer at the 2015 International Math Olympiad recently completed in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and the first person ever to garner five gold medals. 

With his perfect score on the exam – the only one of 577 contestants to achieve 100 percent – Song takes the top spot in the IMO Hall of Fame, which has tracked the world’s best young mathletes since the first IMO in 1959. 

Song, who first competed at the IMO in seventh grade, received a special prize and a standing ovation at the 2015 IMO closing ceremonies.

Kevin Sun ’16, who competed along with Song on team Canada, also won gold, his second top medal at IMO and one of only 39 golds awarded this year. He won a bronze in his first IMO in 2013. Team Canada came in 9th overall this year.

Song beat out mathletes from 104 countries – including the U.S. (the 2015 winning team), and traditional powerhouses China, South Korea and Russia – to land the top place. According to PEA Math Instructor Zuming Feng, who led the USA IMO math team for many years and worked as a judge at the 2015 IMO, this year’s exam was one of the hardest ever.

Participants have 9 hours – split into two sessions – to crack six problems. Here’s an example of what the Exonians faced at 2015 IMO:

”One thing which is common to both Alex and Kevin – and this has been evident from the start – is the utter joy that they derive from doing mathematics,” says Jacob Tsimerman, leader of the 2015 IMO Canadian math team, who has known Song and Sun for years. ”With these two it feels like they’re not so much trying to achieve success as partaking in their favorite pastime.”

Tsimerman describes both as ”extremely humble,” which has ”a very positive dynamic in our training camps and in the Canadian high school math community at large,” he says. ”Alex in particular first came to our attention as a promising 4th grader and has turned into the most successful IMO participant of all time. As such, it’s natural that others look up to him, and the way he chooses to conduct himself has great influence on the other students and the general mood. As he is always very cheerful and quick to help out others, this encourages the other students to challenge themselves further.”

Feng, who has taught both Exonians during their years at PEA, concurs. "I enjoy Alex's sense of humor, and his ability to motivate people around him to be better."