NiKo: "With stand-ins I try to push myself more because I feel I have to give more to the team"
NiKo ended the event with his highest Big Event rating of 2018, 1.39, to claim the award of best player of the tournament. He excelled in several categories, including KPR, which he topped with 0.88, and ADR, with 90.4.
In the winning interview, NiKo talks about the final, his form since the Major, and his team's biggest dream at the moment, the Intel Grand Slam, among other topics.
Really great display by you in the final, and all tournament long. Were you comfortable coming into ESL One Belo Horizonte? Did you feel your best self was going to come out?
Yeah, I've been feeling pretty confident since after the Major. I've been playing pretty well since then, so I knew that coming to the event I was going to deliver, and it was just about how much. I knew that I would play well, though, because as I said, I've been in shape for a while and I know what to expect from myself. I'm glad I could keep it up.
You have been playing well for a while, indeed, but it's your first MVP medal of the year. Coming in #2 last year in the world ranking, are you shooting for #1 now? Is this a step towards that?
Yeah, definitely. I've been waiting for this, as you said, the last time I got a medal was at ESL One New York. It doesn't really matter because we won some events and my teammates who played better than me got it, but I want to keep these performances up and I believe I could attack and claim the first spot in this year's ranking.
Has having cromen on the team affected your personal play at all?
Not really, I play the same as I did with Olof, but now with stand-ins I try to push myself more because I feel like I have to give more to the team, bring more if we want to keep the same level as a team. I think that's pretty much it, because whoever comes as a stand-in just takes over olofmeister's roles, so it didn't change much in our game. I just feel like I have to deliver more if I want my team to stay at the top.
It has been kind of a strange final in which two teams had a stand-in. It was a hectic back-and-forth final going all the way to five maps, with a crazy Dust2 as a decider. How do you feel it got to this point?
Even coming with a stand-in we expected to win. Nothing else was acceptable. We knew we had to win this event. We were a bit surprised that mousesports made it all the way to the final, but they were playing really well. chrisJ had an amazing event, so there's no surprise that they could go that far with three of their star players playing really well, and especially STYKO played amazing in the final, which is why it was so tough.
The first half on Dust2 was very close, what was the feeling going into the second? You've let tournaments slip away before...
I think the CT side was really hard for us because we were down like 2-6 or something and we knew that we had to step it up or we were going to throw another trophy away. I would say that on every map we started a bit slow, trying to figure out how they were playing with their stand-in, which is why we were starting slow on every map, I would say, except Mirage. We just adapted as CT, and that's when we started to get it rolling. Once we started rolling, we knew we were in the driver's seat. Winning the pistol also helped keep it rolling.
Finally, you're the first team to hit the three tournament wins in the Grand Slam. How focused are you on Cologne?
We're going to give everything we have to win either ESL One Cologne or DreamHack Masters Stockholm. That's our biggest goal and biggest dream, that's why we're fighting so much with stand-ins and everything, and just playing as much as possible just to keep a good level and compete for the Grand Slam, which is what we're doing and I'm really happy we managed to actually do it. We just want to win the Grand Slam, that's our biggest goal right now.