With South Africa suffering from a medal drought, the good news is that a South African did land a bronze – not in Beijing but in Cairo; and not in sport, but in computer programming.
Every year students from about 80 countries from all over the world meet for the International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI). This year 283 students from 73 countries met at the Mubarak City of Education in the desert, 30km West of Cairo to compete in the 20th IOI.
A team of four South Africans joined competitors from around the world to compete for gold, silver and bronze. Team members were selected from the 34 000 participants in the 2007 South African Standard Bank Computer Olympiad. All were still at school when selected.
They were Mark Danoher, from Pearson High (Port Elizabeth); Robert Ketteringham, from Rondebosch Boys' High (Cape Town); Schalk-Willem Krüger, from Ferdinand Postma High (Potchefstroom); and Saadiq Moolla, from Rondebosch Boys' High (Cape Town).
The participants spend two days, five hours per day, writing the computer programs that will solve the given problems. Mark Danoher took the lead among the South Africans by scoring 100 on the first day. However, the next competition day it was Saadiq Moolla's turn to score 100 while Mark managed only 11. Saadiq's combined score was sufficient to earn him a bronze medal.
Peter Waker of the Computer Society of South Africa, and manager of the Standard Bank Computer Olympiad, comments: "The problems were extremely challenging this year, and many participants had to go home with a zero score. Obtaining a bronze under those circumstances is an excellent achievement."
Saadiq matriculated after being selected for the South African team, and is currently a medical student at the University of Cape Town. Mark Danoher has also matriculated since being selected, and is studying Computer Science at the University of Cape Town.
Robert Ketteringham and Schalk-Willem Krüger are still at school, and will have an opportunity to qualify for IOI 2009, which will be held in Bulgaria.