Neal Wu’s last chance for international glory, and maybe America’s, too, begins with a sound like a hippo crunching through a field of dry leaves—the sound of 315 computer prodigies at 315 workstations ripping into 315 gray envelopes in unison. “You have five hours,” a voice booms across the packed gymnasium. “Good luck.”
At his desk on the gym floor, Wu, age 18, pushes his glasses up on his nose and squints. He shouldn’t need luck. This is a coding competition—the International Olympiad in Informatics, held in August at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada—and Wu is one of the world’s top competition programmers.
High school athletes probably won't still be playing their sports 7 years hence. Mathletes probably will be.