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Mathematicians Vie in Olympiad

July 21, 1999

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) _ American students equate success at the International Mathematics Olympiad with a high-flying Wall Street career. Others, like Romanians, see it as a chance for a future in the West.

The 40th annual competition brought 500 math geniuses from 81 countries for two days of combined algebra and geometry tests that ended Wednesday.

``The tests were easy,″ said Dremov, a lanky 16-year-old Russian, who finished eighth and was one of 68 youths awarded gold medals.

Started by Romania in 1959, the olympiad tests the students’ capacity for invention. And according to the American Association for Mathematical Olympiads, 80 percent of former American competitors are now millionaires.

Still, students said they had to study extra hard during their summer vacation to be in top form for this year’s olympiad, hosted by the Bucharest Polytechnics Institute. The American team arrived a week before the competition started to study in the mountain resort of Sinaia.

Students at this level ``are expected to perform at the highest level later in life,″ said Gabriel Carroll, 16, of Oakland, Calif., who took a silver medal.

China and Russia finished in a first-place tie in the team competition, followed by Vietnam and then Romania. The United States was ninth.

In the individual competition, Maxym Fedorchuk of Ukraine, Tamas Terpai of Hungary and Stefan Hornet of Romania tied for first place.

Reid Burton of Arlington, Mass., was the top American, finishing 18th.

Romanian students also said they saw the contest as a way to the prosperous West. Three of the Romanian students already have places at American universities.

``Even if I win the Olympiad, it still won’t open any gates for me in Romania,″ said Marius Beceanu, 18.

Many teachers at the Bucharest Mathematics Institute left the country for prestigious careers abroad after the institute was shut down in 1974 by the late Elena Ceausescu, the self-styled scientist wife of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. The institute was reopened shortly after communism ended in 1989.

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