Victory was in the air - an interview with the winners of NEO 2022

Victory was in the air for a few last Friday at the awards ceremony of the 2022 National Economics Olympiad. Across a tough competition, teams from economic programs across the Netherlands faced challenging problems posed by the country’s top economists. While many performed well only one team was able to capture the competition’s top prize.



Ming Cheng, Maartje van Wijhe, and Sijmen Rijks (from left to right in the picture) all from the Tinbergen institute were declared the champions. All born and raised in different places across the Netherlands they all have an econometrics background in their bachelor studies. Now together at the Tinbergen Institute, they continue in this field in pursuing a research master.


They are all hoping to follow their masters with PhDs: Ming is interested in financial econometrics, Sijmen in microeconomics and competition economics, and Maartje in empirical microeconomics.


Asked how difficult they found the exam, Ming said “on your own it would not be possible. Some things I knew or recognized from my master and some things from my bachelor, but it was sometimes hard to remember.”


The moment they finished Sijmen said he “was really unsure how the others did on the questions”. Ming adds “going in we knew that a bachelor 2 team won two years ago, but the exam was way harder than expected. It was good to talk to people after that. Everyone felt the same.”


However, they were able to solve the exam through teamwork. Maartje explains their strategy: “We divided questions based on our best skills but still helped each other out when we got stuck”. She focused mainly on the micro questions. Sijmen said “we ended on the essay, mathematics was better first because you either know the answers or you don’t. It's difficult to guess.”


If a team of professors tried to tackle the problems, Ming said “three micro professors might struggle in the other subjects.” Sijmen adds, “if you don't work with a certain model at all you might really have a hard time knowing how to answer.”


Questioned how they were going to spend their win of €300, Maartje said they hadn't thought about it but Ming adds that hopefully they will do something together.


In reflection Ming adds that it was all “a fun and challenging experience” and that it was “good to see how much knowledge you actually are able to remember”. They are all likely to join next year when the National Economics Olympiad returns for what will hopefully be another exciting edition.


Here are some more impression from NEO 2022:


We would like to thank all participants as well as our partners - see you again next year!

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