An Emirati teenager who was personally congratulated by President Sheikh Mohamed after winning a prestigious maths competition has said he would like to be a pilot when he grows up.
Khamis Al Jneibi won first place in the International Mathematical Olympiad, competing against hundreds of students from 19 countries in Sharm El Sheikh this month.
The 13-year-old, representing the UAE, solved 100 complex arithmetic problems in just 10 minutes.
Following his victory, he received an unexpected phone call that still sends shivers down his spine.
“I still can’t believe I met the President,” he told The National on Thursday.
“This is the greatest honour that I could have ever imagined. My friends keep asking me how it was like and what the President told me.”
Khamis travelled with his father to Egypt last month and returned with the cup on June 4.
“Only two days after our return, we received a call saying that the President would like to meet our son,” said his father Saleh, 46, vice principal at an Abu Dhabi public school.
“This is nothing that anyone could have ever imagined.
“Our hearts were beating so fast and I am really surprised how we managed to speak calmly and with confidence to the President of the UAE. He was humble, proud of Khamis’ achievements and asked about our well-being.”
Khamis, a grade seven student at Saad bin Moath school in Abu Dhabi, discovered he had a natural talent for mathematics at a young age.
“I always knew that I enjoyed maths and that I was better at it than most. At 7 years old I realised that I could solve complicated equations mentally,” he said.
He later joined a centre in Abu Dhabi for young geniuses.
“I still would like to grow up to be a pilot,” Khamis said with a laugh.
“I would advise parents to keep their children away from electronics and enrol them in various courses according to their hobbies and talents,” his father said.
“We would take Khamis to the centre everyday after school to practice maths. He also likes swimming, horse riding and has a blue belt in karate.
“We do our utmost to keep him busy and away from electronics — that seems to be taking up all the time of our youths.
“When Khamis first went into the competition, I asked him to keep the UAE at the forefront of his mind and that any achievement was to make his country and parents proud — he has done that and has made us all so proud.”
The International Mathematical Olympiad is for pre-university competitors and is the oldest of the International Science Olympiads.