The winners of the latest round of Fields Medals have just been announced. I was delighted to see that one of the winners was Terry Tao, from my home city of Adelaide. I used to tutor Terry a bit when he was an 8- or 9-year old mathematical prodigy training for the International Mathematical Olympiad, and I was 18 -- though it has to be said that he didn't need much help. (The Sydney Morning Herald has a nice article.) I might also have met Grigori Perelman, the reclusive Russian who proved the Poincare conjecture and declined a medal, at the IMO in Budapest in 1982, though I can't say I have any specific recollection. (I discovered this connection when an enterprising journalist e-mailed me to see if I had any photos of Perelman. Alas, I couldn't find any.)
I've often wondered whether success in mathematics at these early stages correlates strongly with success in the field later on (it didn't for me, as a mathematics dropout), so it's great to see Terry and other ex-youngsters doing so well. Incidentally, the register of former Australian IMO participants indicates that three have gone on to become professional philosophers: me, Brian Weatherson, and Kevin Davey. It would be interesting to know whether there are others from other countries with the same trajectory.