The Saudi Biology National Team has won two prizes at the 33rd International Biology Olympiad in Armenia.
The event, which ran from July 10-18, saw 237 students from 64 countries around the world take part.
The Saudi winners arrived today at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, where they were received by their families as well as officials from the Ministry of Education and King Abdulaziz and his Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity (Mawhiba).
Four students from the Saudi team reached the finals, of which two won international prizes.
Yazan Al-Maghrabi, a student from Manarat Jeddah International School, won a silver medal, while Nawaf Al-Mitairi from the Eastern Province was awarded a certificate of merit.
Speaking to Arab News, 16-year-old Al-Maghrabi said: “When they called my name, I almost sat up by instinct. I didn’t really believe it at first, but after a few hours of holding the medal in my hand and getting to see it firsthand, I believed it, I guess.”
Al-Maghrabi said that some of the challenges he faced included being in a foreign country without Arabic speakers, as well as being away from his family.
“Being with some of the most talented students in the world … students coming from all types of countries, Russia, Australia, India … these students, they want the medals just as much as I do. So, they have to first face the competition.”
Al-Maghrabi, whose father is a pathologist and mother a dentist, believes that his score in the theory exam “really made the difference.”
Samar Al-Dirgham, Al-Maghrabi’s mother, said: “I am really happy and so proud of him. I am speechless, and I really encourage him to keep going and thrive for bigger competitions in the future.”
Certificate of merit winner Al-Mitairi said: “We are very proud of Yazan and us going through the experience, especially because it is an international Olympiad. There are a lot of countries that have had more experience than us even though we scored a medal and merit, which is very impressive and historic. And hopefully, more is coming in the future.”
Basil AsSadhan, deputy secretary general of Mawhiba, told Arab News: “This competition is special since it has been done in person, as in the last two years it was done online due to COVID-19. Hence, the last two years were called a challenge, not an Olympiad competition, because it wasn’t an official one. However, participating in such competitions has many advantages. It shows the level of scientific rigor that the Saudi students have reached. It also builds confidence, self-discipline and integrity within students.”
Before competing, Saudi students received 2,000 hours of training from a selection of domestic and international coaches, as part of a collaboration between Mawhiba and the Ministry of Education. They were trained in topics including biochemistry, bioinformatics, physiology, plant anatomy, as well as animal physiology and anatomy.
AsSadhan said: “Many students who won or participated in such competitions have achieved excellent academic credentials in their universities and many of them earned Ph.Ds. What is interesting is that some of the students who trained with us came back to us as trainers. So, our students are distinguished when it comes to giving back.”
He added: “Biology is one out of four competitions that we have won this year. In these few days, we participated in math, physics, chemistry and biology, and next month we will be participating in informatics, which will take place in Indonesia. Our students will be beacons and pillars in achieving Vision 2030.”