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City Girl Gets Gold in World Math Olympiad

Published: July 27, 2004 (Issue # 989)



  • Nadezhda Petukhova: world-class.
    Photo: Alexander Belenky / The St. Petersburg Times

St. Petersburg schoolgirl Nadezhda Petukhova, 17, was not just the first girl in the Russian team to compete in this year's International Math Olympiad since 1998, she also won a gold medal.

Petukhova has just returned from the Olympiad, which was held in Athens on July 9 to 18.

She received her gold medal from Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis, who told her: "I'm so glad that you're a girl."

The overwhelmingly majority of the contestants - 84 countries entered teams of six - were male. Only four students succeeded in answering all 42 questions correctly.

Petukhova answered most of her questions correctly, and finished in the top 20 rankings for individuals. In the national contest, Russia came third, after China and the United States.

Petukhova also brought a living prize home from Athens, a cat she calls Pit that she found in the city.

Her road to the gold medal was not an easy one. Her schoolteachers didn't understand why she was concentrating on math, even though the school she studied at was associated with the Academy of Sciences and specializes in physics and technology.

Her classmate Sasha Safronova said the school had made life difficult for Petukhova.

"They made her retake all the tests when she returned from All-Russian Olympiad. Petukhova graduated from school with threes in some subjects," she said. "Nadya's victory was no surprise for us. In our class we had seven pupils who won All-Russian Olympiads. We are just sorry that she rarely was at school".

Petukhova is no stranger to mathematics: her parents and elder brother are mathematicians.

"Nobody asked me if I liked it or not," she said. "My parents just submerged me in math."

In some ways her preparation for Athens began when Petukhova was in the fifth grade. She entered district, city, and two national mathematical Olympiads and earned a place in the IMO team.

At the age of 11 she was part of a special class at the city's school No. 239 that coaches children for math competitions. When she started there were three study groups each of them had 30 pupils. In the end only 10 students graduated from it.

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