Ilya Gritsenko: interview with the winner of three National Olympiad Stages

Ilya Gritsenko, the winner of three National Olympiad Stages for the 2020-2021 academic year; an impressive feat, to put it mildly! He was interviewed by the Chief Olympiad coach for the English Olympiad team of Moscow Oblast, Dmitry Dragaitsev, and two teachers from the International Department of Primakov School, Nicole Rochat, and Daniel Pagnoccolo.

 Ilya, can you tell me about the experience with the Vzlyot Olympiad training courses that you did? What was the best part for you?

— Well, they really helped me, and without them, I wouldn't have been able to even make it to the Olympiad. I think quite obviously the most important part of those Vzlyot courses was the knowledge that I received during them because I am not much of a social type. And so, the social component of those sessions wasn't very important to me.

 And which of the three results are you, so to speak, most satisfied with?

 — I think that would be Russian because I put the most effort into it. Actually, I had wanted to win the Russian Olympiad since the 9th grade, I think, or perhaps the beginning of the 10th grade. So it was really nice to see a dream come true; although it wasn't much of a dream, it was more like something I made up to prove my worth to myself.

 Ilya, it's very good to challenge yourself, and you reached what you wanted to do. Going by your three victories, what are your plans for the future? What do you want to do next year and beyond? Do you have any plans?

 — I want to enroll in a university, and I don't know which one. So I still have to make that choice, and that isn't easy. And I also plan on coming to the Olympiad sessions to teach.

  Is there a university you're leaning towards?

 — There are two to choose from: the Higher School of Economics and Moscow State University, which are widely considered to be the best.

 And how about the field of studying, Ilya? Translation or linguistics?

— I am not sure. I still have to choose between linguistics and translation. Well, both of the universities have good linguistics faculties, so that makes the choice even harder. But I am leaning towards linguistics and Moscow State University.

 That's all right. Yeah, you have a few months to figure it out. The big question for me is how on earth did you manage to fit preparation, plus schoolwork, and, you know, everyday life as well in 24 hours in a day?

— It's simple. I did not have to fit those things in 24 hours because I did not go to school. Just once every two weeks or so, maybe even more rarely. My social life was non-existent because I spent all my time on the Vzlyot Olympiad courses, so I couldn't go to any social gatherings. I didn't see any friends except for the ones that I had at the courses. And I did not prepare for all of the Olympiads with the same level of diligence and effort as my level of ability was naturally different in each of the three subjects.

 Ilya, could you maybe tell us about your strategy on the day of the Olympiad? Is there anything special you do? For example, do you make sure you get a certain amount of sleep? Do you eat breakfast? Do you revise your notes and what is your routine?

 — Well, you should get enough sleep unless your body is set up in such a way that your mental ability improves due to lack of sleep, but I have not met a single person for whom that would be true. So of course, I get enough sleep, I have breakfast, because as they say it is the most important meal of the day. I find that being comfortable and well-fed is more important than any slight improvement in mental faculties that comes with slight hunger. Of course, writing notes and revising them is important, but I did not do that on the day of the Olympiad, firstly, because there was no time for that, and secondly, because I don't think it is very beneficial to overload yourself with information on the very day you have to do the Olympiad. Thorough preparation in the weeks leading up to the competition is key to performing well.

 It sounds like you understand how to reach your optimal mindset before the Olympiad.

— I also 'prepared' myself in a somewhat unique way. It was not done on purpose, but on the day before every single Olympiad, I would get myself into a little bit of a depressive episode. So on the morning of the next day, I woke up and thought everything was pointless, so I didn't worry at all, which took away the nerves.

 Ms. Nicole has mentioned before that you had support at the Vzlyot Centre, but were there any individuals that supported you the most during the lead-up to the competition?

— Yes, there is one teacher in particular, and it is Mr. Dmitry Dragaitsev. Thank you very much! Also, all of our social studies team tutors: they're simply wonderful, there are a lot of them, and they're all young, and they're all energetic, and they even wrote letters to us before the Olympiad to encourage us. And I would like to thank Mr. Dmitry Gerasimov because he was the head of that team. He was the one who found all those teachers and invited them to our training course so they would be there for us.

 And now, looking towards the future, how do you think your Olympiad experience will help you in your future studies, your future career?

— Well, Olympiads bring a lot of knowledge. I gained plenty of knowledge and skills during a significant part of the Vzlyot training courses. Focusing on the English language greatly improved my command of English, which will undoubtedly be helpful later in life. The knowledge I received during our social studies training courses will be of use for daily life and daily discussions because it concerns many spheres, such as politics, philosophy, economics, and other fields that are quite important.

 Ilya, thank you very much for your ideas, and thank you very much for everything you've done! But, please don't forget that to do our best and to be healthy, we sometimes need to rest. So, after this enormous amount of work, please don't forget to have a well-earned rest.

— Thank you.