Winners of 43rd International Physics Olympiad crowned in Tartu

23 July 2012

Receiving the title of overall winner of the 43rd International Physics Olympiad, which was held recently in Estonia’s university city, was Hungarian team member Attila Szabó – who also posted the best result in the theory round of the competition. The experimental round was won by Kai-Chi Huang from Taiwan, who finished 5th in the final rankings. A total of 378 students from 80 countries took part in the competition, with 45 receiving gold medals, 71 receiving silver medals and 92 receiving bronze medals. A further 63 students completed the Olympiad with honours.

“Tartu was the physics capital of the world for a day!” said Estonian Minister of Education and Research Jaak Aaviksoo. “The youngsters taking part came from all over the world, not only showing that interest in the natural sciences is global, but that the results, when that interest is applied, are outstanding. Of course, we’re very happy that Estonia came away from the competition with a swag of gold and silver medals, too!”

“The gold medallists came from 21 different countries, including Estonia – stand up Jaan Toots, who graduated from Toomas Reimann’s Year 11 class at Tallinn Secondary School of Science in spring!” said Ene Koitla, the head of the organising committee of the Olympiad and a member of the management board of the Estonian Information Technology Foundation. “Jaan ended the day in 32nd place overall, but unfortunately he wasn’t able to accept his medal from Nobel prize laureate Sir Harold Kroto at the awards ceremony, as he’d already flown off to represent Estonia at the International Chemistry Olympiad in Washington!”

The other four members of the Estonian team also came away from the event victorious, each with a silver medal to their name. They were Tanel Kiis, a graduate of Vahur Pohlasalu’s class at C.R. Jakobson Secondary School in Viljandi (the youngest member of the team); Kristjan Kongas, tutored by Olav Kongas and starting Year 9 at Tallinn Old Town Educational College in autumn; Kaur Aare Saar, taught by Guido Vegmann and set to start his final year at Tallinn English College; and Andres Erbsen from Tallinn Secondary School of Science, taught by Rain Vellerind, Toomas Reimann, Eero Uustalu and Mart Kuurme.

A number of special prizes were also awarded: the prize for the best female student taking part was presented by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to Russian silver medallist Alexandra Vassiljeva, while another member of the Russian team won the prize for the most innovative solution put forward in the competition.

Jaak Kikas, head of the academic committee of the Olympiad, says that representatives of the teams involved were full of praise for the tasks set. “They clearly weren’t the easiest of tasks, as is reflected in the scores the teams posted, but the actual physics content of them was warmly received,” he explained. “The innovative ICT solutions we were using came in for a lot of attention as well, and everyone seemed pleased with the other scientific events we organised as part of the competition.”

In presenting his summary of IPhO 2012 at the most recent meeting of the international jury, IPhO president Hans Jordens said that the Olympiad held in Estonia had been organised to such a world-class level that subsequent organisers will have a lot to live up to. Equal praise was showered on the academic committee for the “complex, yet elegant and attractive” tasks they set, on the excellent teamwork of the organising board, on the IT solutions that captured the imaginations of the visiting competitors and on the helpfulness of the tireless and ever-cheerful young volunteers. Hundreds of people contributed to the success of the Olympiad in addition to the chief organisers and managers of the event, over a period of several years leading up to the competition.

The high point of the Olympiad was without doubt the series of events held in Tartu on 20 July, including the enthralling lecture given by Nobel laureate Sir Harold Kroto – which should be mandatory reading for all students facing career choices (see

The Estonian initiatives at the event – naming the host city the ‘physics capital of the world’ and organising a Careers Day with leading universities – were supported and praised by all of the competing countries and will be carried over to future Olympiads.

IPhO or the International Physics Olympiad ( is an annual physics competition for secondary school students. The first Olympiad was organised by Professor Czesław Ścisłowski in Poland in 1967, and subsequent competitions have been held in different countries every year.

The Olympiad’s website can be found at

The Estonian Information Technology Foundation ( is a non-profit organisation which was established by the Republic of Estonia, the University of Tartu, Tallinn University of Technology, AS Eesti Telekom and the Estonian Association of Telecommunications Companies to foster graduates in IT with degrees meeting all modern requirements and support ICT education in Estonia.

For further information please contact:

Ene Koitla
Member of the board, Estonian Information Technology Foundation
Head of organising committee, IPhO 2012
Mobile: +372 51 42 957

Viire Sepp
Director, Gifted and Talented Development Centre, University of Tartu
Academic Secretary, Steering Committee, IPhO 2012
Mobile: +372 51 89 951