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India’s unlikely Olympian

In Class 9, Aakanksha Sarda almost failed in physics. On Monday, she became the second Indian girl to qualify for the International Physics Olympiad (IphO).

mumbai Updated: May 18, 2010 01:14 IST
Kiran Wadhwa

In Class 9, Aakanksha Sarda almost failed in physics. On Monday, she became the second Indian girl to qualify for the International Physics Olympiad (IphO).

Sarda is part of a team of five finalists who will represent India at the 41st IPhO 2010, at Zagreb, Croatia, from July 17 to 25.

“The logic of the subject soon dawned on me and now it is my favourite subject,” said the 18-year-old Sathaye College student, who will soon join Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“India has been faring well at the Olympiad with four golds and one silver for the past couple of years. This year, we are hoping for all five golds.”

Sarda, who also topped the Class 10 ICSE exams two years ago, has been preparing for various entrance tests along with the Olympiads.

About 36,000 students from across the nation participated in the first-level examination. Of these, 312 students were selected for the second level examination — the Indian National Physics Olympiad (INPhO) examination.

The INPhO examination was conducted in 15 centres across the country. From this, 37 students were selected to participate in an intensive training camp from May 4 to 17. On Monday, the final five were declared.

“All the students in the camp were brilliant. I am sure the top five will do well,” said Vijay Singh, national coordinator for Science Olympiads.

But does falling in love with Physics occupy a student’s entire life? “Not really. I still managed to catch a couple of movies every week, learn French and go for the international linguistics Olympiad,” said Sarda.

Mehul Kumar from Jaipur is also part of the team. He said his preparation for IIT-JEE helped him. “Also, several topics for the Physics Olympiad are similar to those in the CBSE curriculum for Classes 11 and 12. A strong hold over the basics is a must,” said Kumar.