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Japan high schooler shines as Microsoft Excel champion in global student competition

Ami Nakazono, a second-year student at Fukuoka prefectural Yahata High School, and champion of the Microsoft Excel division of the 2021 Microsoft Office Specialist World Championship, is seen in the Fukuoka Prefecture city of Kitakyushu on Dec. 23, 2021. (Mainichi/Hiroya Miyagi)

KITAKYUSHU -- A high-schooler in southwest Japan won the global title in the Microsoft Excel section of the 2021 Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) World Championship in November 2021.

    It is the first time a student from Japan has been crowned champion at the competition, where students from around the world demonstrate their expertise using Microsoft computer software.

    Ami Nakazono, 17, a second-year student at Fukuoka prefectural Yahata High School, rejoiced at her victory, saying, "I was able to display my skills in the competition because I kept working hard toward my goal."

    Over 200,000 students, including high schoolers, technical school students and university students from 108 countries applied to enter into the MOS World Championship, and between Nov. 9 and Nov. 11, 2021, 160 students from 33 countries competed in the final round of the competition, which includes different sections for multiple Microsoft Office products. The championship took place online for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    For the Excel division, finalists were judged based on their accuracy, as well as their ability to create reports using graphs and charts while gathering and analyzing data over a period of three and a half hours.

    Nakazono commented, "I try to create material that anyone can easily understand straight away. Since I prepared so well, I felt I'd do fine and oddly, I wasn't nervous. The material, which incorporated my point of view and experiences as a high school student might have been good."

    Since she was in elementary school, the 17-year-old stopped by the computer classroom where her mother works as an instructor, and naturally took a liking to computers. In the sixth grade, she won the "MaiPaso" national typing contest hosted by The Mainichi Newspapers Co. and other bodies, where participants compete while displaying their typing speed and accuracy. Nakazono said that this was an experience where she "learned how fun it is to work hard."

    Shortly after enrolling in high school, she missed the opportunity to join a club following her hospitalization for around one week as well as a temporary school closure amid the pandemic. As she was jealous of her classmates who partook in club activities, she decided to try taking a certification exam offered by Microsoft, which is a prerequisite for participating in the world championship, and passed it in the spring of 2021.

    "You hardly ever get the opportunity to put your skills to the test on the global stage. I didn't want to regret letting go of this chance," said Nakazono, who made the big decision to try out for the world championship.

    Alongside her schoolwork, she set aside one hour each day to study for the competition and acquire knowledge about patterns for many types of mathematical functions and graphs.

    The high schooler who snatched victory also spoke of a new dream: "I'm undecided on my future, but I want to utilize my skills to help others."

    (Japanese original by Hiroya Miyagi, Kyushu News Department)

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