A different kind of Olympics was held in Orlando, Florida this week. More than 150 finalists from 40 countries, who bested a pool of 700,000 applicants, vied for medals at the 15th annual Microsoft Office Specialist World Championship. Rather than crowding into an athletics arena, they gathered at a convention center ballroom lined with rows of computers ready for the elite group of tech wizards ages 13-23 who gathered for the three-day meet.
A contest of keyboard shortcuts, swift clicks, and attention to detail, competitors were asked to create documents and complete timed tasks in PowerPoint, Excel or Microsoft Word with accuracy and speed. Convened by computer skills certification company Certiport, first prize winners received cash prizes up to $7,500.
Like the real Olympics, delegates from Asia dominated the Microsoft Olympiad. Winners announced Aug. 11 include Hong Kong’s Lai Tin Ming, 16 and Pak Hei Lee, 18 who won the Word 2013 and Excel 2013 respectively and a duo from Macau, Ka Hei Chao, 17 and Kuan Hou Lei, 16, won the PowerPoint 2010 and Excel 2010 competitions. Eighteen-year-old Georgi Boshev of Bulgaria won the Word 2010 medal and 17-year old Ryan Catalfu from North Carolina was declared PowerPoint 2013 champion. (Two winners per program were announced because Microsoft introduced a major overhaul of its Office software in July 2012.)
“In today’s global economy these young people understand that Microsoft Office Specialist certification gives them an edge and prepares them for success,” says Bob Whelan, president of Pearson Assessments which owns Certiport. “The competition is a lot of fun, but it also gives participants a valuable, industry-recognized certification on their resume.”
PowerPoint whiz Catalful tells Quartz that he practiced for the competition by taking the certification test over 300 times.He bested a room asked to recreate “complex” Powerpoint deck based on color printouts in under an hour. The senior from Green Hope High School in Cary from says that mastering Office software will prepare him for any job he wants to pursue. “It can definitely help when I’m preparing my presentations,” he says.
His top tips for PowerPoint users: Learn to use master slides and when embedding a video definitely, export, and not just save the file to avoid snafus.