16 July 2008

Sarah Jane Cua: Asia Pacific Sudoku Champ

Sarah Jane Cua
Who would have thought that this tiny pinay and one of the youngest in a field of 50 players from seven countries—combining both children and professionals will be adjudged as the best Sudoku solver for the region. But the 14-year old Sarah Jane Cua erased all doubts about her ability as she emerged the maiden winner of BRAND’S First Asia-Pacific Sudoku Challenge on 12 July 2008.

The best part is, this soft-spoken high schooler from Dagupan City never thought of it as work since she enjoiyed it everytime she solves a puzzle. In fact, she immersed herself in endless puzzles, solving endless Sudoku combinations in between quick meals, happy banter with the five other youngsters in the Philippine Team, and MRT rides since she arrived in Singapore on 10 July 2007.

In an interview with BusinessMirror, her mother, Helen, recalled, "She never looked at it as work; she enjoyed herself all the time."

Besides her own effort, Sarah effusively thanked her mentors at the Mathematics Trainers Guild (MTG), led by Dr. Simon L. Chua, for all the years she had been under their tutelage. MTG-Phils. was represented in Singapore by board member Dr. Isidro Aguilar, also the mathematics education supervisor at Taguig City.

MTG Phils. is the partner of BusinessMirror in holding the Philippines ’ national sudoku challenge that picks the country’s official contestants for the World Puzzle Federation’s World Sudoku Challenge every year.

Aguilar thinks it was Sarah's discipline and organized 'attack' on the Sudoku, honed by constant practice, that saved the day for her, and the country—reversing a perilously near-defeat setback in the fourth or 'Knock Out' round, where 15 semifinalists were whittled down to the Final 5. In the Knock Out, Sarah, who placed first overall in the first three rounds or Playoffs, got distracted and became tense after Filipino mallgoers who heard 'Philippines' being announced sought her out and crowded within a meter of the contest area to see the girl from Pangasinan Universal Institute in action.

Other members of the Philipine Team are St. Stephen’s School’s Dielle Tio, aged 11, Alvin Ian Chan of St. Paul’s College-Ilocos Sur, Matthew Cris Chan, 15, also of St. Stephen’s, Jacqueline Joyce Oh, 14, of GCF International School in Ortigas, and Mariel Alexis Dee, grandmaster and top winner in the BusinessMirror-MTG challenge.

If you think that winning S$ 10,000; a crystal trophy and a BRAND’S hamper, with various products of the more than 170-year-old Essence of Chicken will stop Sarah from competing some more, you are wrong. Next weekend she flies again to Singapore as part of MTG Phils.’ pick of contestants for the prestigious International Mathematics Competition.

That's Sarah Jane Cua, one of the country's pride.