by Brendan Gordon
The Olympiad was great fun and an experience I'll never forget. I especially enjoyed meeting the participants from other countries: Canada, Australia, Britain, and Russia. Unfortunately, the U.S. team didn't make it to the finals, but we missed going by only one point.
We fell down in "orienteering," which was, as my mom puts it, a "glorified treasure hunt" at the Epcot Center. Our team had never done that sort of thing. In the written part of the preliminary, however, we took first place. Of the teams that went to the finals, the Australians won first place.
The Russians didn't do too well, probably because maps and geography books were a state secret under the communist regime. Apparently, the powers-that-be didn't want people finding their way out of the country. I heard also that the study of geography had only recently been reinstated there.
Our team had the youngest members. While the British had three 16-year-olds, our oldest member and captain was Anders Knospe, 15, the winner of last year's U.S. Bee. Aaron Wenzel, this year's second-place winner, was 14. I was 13, as was Chris Galeczka, this year's first place winner. Chris and I shared a room at the Olympiad and saw the sights together. I found it interesting to learn that Chris's father escaped from Poland after the communist takeover. Knowing Polish, Chris was able to compare that language and Russian with the Russian team members. I was able to decipher the Russian cue cards during the final round of the Olympiad, since I know the Cyrillic alphabet.
On our last night in Florida, Hurricane Erin passed overhead. Although winds reached 60 mph at my hotel, the hurricane was too weak to do any damage. However, I found it exciting, since one of my hobbies is hurricane tracking. I use satellite pictures and articles off the internet.
It was nice to have my dad along at the Olympiad. He was a great help to me. For one thing, he reminded me to get to bed at a decent hour. With the heat and time lag, it was tempting to stay up too late, swimming in the pool with Chris and the British!