Our team, YoiAC has been practicing regularly twice a week for about 3 months before participating in ACM ICPC Kaohshiung, thanks to Suhendry Effendy and Ing Ing Ang for being our trainer (they were our seniors and also participated in ACM ICPC Regional Manila 2005 with team name "Smart Bee"). This is really helpful for regeneration, passing on the best practices you've learned to your juniors (just like Jedi Masters teach their Padawan).
Aside from the regular training (twice a week), I did a lot more practice by myself. I tried to surpass the limit (just like Super Seiya 1,2,3,4 :P). If you look at my statistics in UVA (open with firefox 1.5 or above or any supported SVG browser), you can see there's an exponential growth of accepted problems (from 600 to 966). It took discipline and sacrifices to achive that kind of growth (I didn't play games, didn't go vacation, didn't watch movies). I bet the other teams who advanced to the World Finals also have the same discipline and sacrifices.
I've been participating in ACM ICPC for 4 consecutive years (see my history menu), so more or less I know the best practices to be successfull in ACM ICPC or any other related programming contest. I believe TopCoders are Born and then Made. When practicing a lot, you will develop your coding style so that your code will be more concise and elegant, easy to fix in case of bug and easy to understand. This kind of practice is really helpful in programming contest where your score will be penalized if buggy (WA bayar). This is one of the factor why YoiAC got so few penalties and beats other teams in penalty points.
Many online contests were held before YoiAC compete in Taiwan, such as (TopCoder (SRMs), UVA, TJU, PKU, etc...). I'm really grateful to those who held online programming contest for I could compare my skills related to others (adu nyali), and discuss the problems. For the upcoming online programming contest schedules can be found in Algorithmist Programming Contest Calendar (thanks to the guys who keep the list up to date).
Back to : Day 3, Contest Proper (18 Nov 2006)