South African Computer Olympiad

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The South African Computing Olympiad (SACO) is an annual computer programming competition for secondary school students (although at least one primary school student has participated[1]) in South Africa. The South African team for the International Olympiad in Informatics is selected through this competition.

Competition rounds[edit]

The competition consists of three rounds; the first round is a pen-and-paper aptitude examination at the entrant's school, testing a combination of general knowledge, knowledge of computers, problem solving and basic programming (entrants are often required to program an imaginary robot in a fictional Logo-like language). Although the first round is not compulsory, it is accessible to those who do not have access to, or knowledge of, computers. 31,926 students entered the first round in 2006.[2]

In the second round, actual programs must be written and executed. There are five questions, each requiring a different program to be written. Most entrants only answer a single question; the tasks usually include one basic shape-drawing program; for example, the 2004 question "TriSquare" required output such as:

 * *
*   *
*   *
*   *
*   *

The top performers (those who have answered four or five questions in the second round) are invited to the final round. Usually between 10 and 15 students are chosen, but since the introduction of a new language and increased funding from the Shuttleworth Foundation in 2005 there have been between 20 and 30 students; the final round is held at the University of Cape Town: the finalists stay in Cape Town over a weekend. The competition consists of two five-hour rounds, the first on Saturday and second on Sunday; the problems are similar to those in the USACO, though somewhat easier. On the Monday after the competition, a prize-giving ceremony is held.


The top six entrants are awarded medals (one gold, two silver and three bronze). There are cash prizes, both for the winners and their schools. There were bonus prizes totalling R100,000 for using Python, due to Shuttleworth's sponsorship; the sponsorship ended in 2013 and no additional prizes are given for using Python presently.

The top performers are invited to a squad which will be given additional training from the Olympiad coaches and the USACO training programme. Four programmers are then selected from the squad to represent South Africa at the International Olympiad in Informatics.


In the first round, it is not necessary to know a programming language. In the second round, contestants may use a language of their choice (within reason - Brainfuck is presumably excluded). In the third round, however, the set of languages is restricted to:

Python programs are given a 10x time bonus.

South African IOI Medalists[edit]

The following table lists all South African IOI medalists ordered by colour and number of medals (or ranking if gold), then by last year a medal was received. B represents a Bronze medal, S a Silver and G a Gold.[3]

Name Years
Bruce Merry G (6th) 2001 G (7th) 2000 S 1999 S 1998 B 1997 B 1996
Daniel Wright G (1st) 1998
Richard Starfield G (13th) 2004
Kevin Liu S 1995 S 1994
Ralf Kistner B 2007 S 2006
Carl Hultquist B 2000 S 1999
Keegan Carruthers-Smith S 2006
Joshua Yudaken S 2006
Linsen Loots S 2003
Johan Du Toit S 2001
Danie Conradie S 1997
Brian Shand S 1994
David Butler S 1992
Keith Guthrie S 1992
Yaseen Mowzer B 2017 B 2016 B 2015
Ulrik De Muelenaere B 2016 B 2015 B 2014
Vaughan Newton B 2012 B 2011
Sean Wentzel B 2012 B 2010
Francois Conradie B 2010 B 2009
Bronson Rudner B 2017
David Broodryk B 2017
Thomas Orton B 2015
Robin Visser B 2015
Robert Spencer B 2013
Bennie Swart B 2011
Graham Manuell B 2010
Kosie van der Merwe B 2010
Saadiq Moolla B 2008
Dirk-B Coetzee B 2007
Timothy Stranex B 2005
Shen Tian B 2003
Jacques Conradie B 2002
Heinrich Du Toit B 2002
Jacob Croon B 2001
Liesl Penzhorn B 2000
Hugo van der Merwe B 2000
Paul Cook B 1999
Rainer Hoft B 1999
Jaco Cronje B 1998
Timothy Lawrence B 1997
Gert-Jan Van Rooyen B 1995


  1. ^ "Computer Olympiad - Winner Archive". Retrieved 2007-10-07.
  2. ^ "Computer Olympiad - History". Retrieved 2007-10-07.
  3. ^ "IOI - South Africa: Hall of Fame". Retrieved 2016-09-14.