jkaem: "Renegades without a doubt saved my career; I am very glad for the opportunity they gave me"
Joakim "jkaem" Myrbostad talks about his return to the top after a tumultuous personal period as he prepares to compete in the playoffs of a Major for the first time in almost four years.
"Let’s do that interview if we reach top eight," jkaem wrote to me before the start of the New Legends Stage. "That way there will be more hype."
Suddenly, I found myself cheering for 'The Boys'. After all, interviews with the Norwegian player have been quite a rare occurrence these days. Plenty of messages went back and forth month before we finally managed to chat to discuss his rise from the ashes in a new region with Renegades.
jkaem had publicly revealed in the summer of 2017 that he had been battling depression for over a year, which in part stemmed from his weight gain and struggles to play to the best of his abilities. Once touted as one of the game’s most promising players after helping G2 to a top-four finish at the DreamHack Open-Cluj Napoca 2015 Major, the Norwegian was far below his prolific peak while playing under FaZe, which led to his benching in September 2016 and ultimately to his departure, six months later.
Many believed that a move to Dignitas alongside three former teammates of his would reignite the fire, but that project went up in smoke after just a few months and two LAN appearances - at the Europe Minor and at the offline qualifier leading to PGL Major Krakow -, leaving the Norwegian contemplating retirement before Renegades eventually came knocking.
"The truth is that I was very close to quitting and leaving the dream of coming back to the top behind me," jkaem tells HLTV.org. "So I was very happy when they reached out to me.
"My mindset was that I had nothing to lose, so I wanted to play my game and hope for the best. It was supposed to be for just three months, so I did not really have big expectations. I just wanted to prove that I still had what it takes to play at the top."
jkaem quickly found his way in Renegades, and what was supposed to be a temporary fix turned into a permanent solution. "I think one of the key factors is that I am living in North America and there is nothing from the outside that makes me lose my focus," he says. Away from the distractions that had halted his progress back home, the Norwegian found himself enjoying the game once again, even if results were not always encouraging: in his first six months with Renegades, only twice did the team make it out the groups at Big Events, while the sole title that they claimed came at the rather underwhelming Asia Minor.
Before the end of the year, Renegades opted to revamp what had become a stale roster and found upgrades to Karlo "USTILO" Pivac and Noah "Nifty" Francis in Jay "Liazz" Tregillgas and Sean "Gratisfaction" Kaiwai while bringing back coach Aleksandar "kassad" Trifunović. The two new players had very little international experience yet made an instant impact, helping the team to a top-four finish at Toyota Masters Bangkok and to a playoff appearance at the ESL Pro League Season 8 Finals - very encouraging signs ahead of the qualifying process for IEM Katowice.
"2018 was a bumpy road, we had some very bad results and some results with which we were happy," jkaem says. "The top six in Odense was a good way to end the year.
"Our goal is to become a consistent team, one that almost always makes the playoffs, and then keep climbing from there.
"We have all the right pieces, so I think it is very doable."
Renegades began 2019 by defending their Asia Minor title, albeit not without some hiccups along the way as they dropped maps to ViCi and Grayhound. But when the going got tough, the team found a higher gear, cruising through the New Challengers Stage 3-0 and coming out of the New Legends Stage with only one defeat to their name - against the tournament’s red-hot favourites, Astralis.
All of Renegades’ players have been contributing in the fragging department, but there is much more to this team than just raw firepower. With victories on five different maps at the Major, they have shown that they possess a wide map pool and that the time they have spent in Katowice since the start of this Major cycle has been put to great use.
"Consistent good practice and everyone putting in 100% effort have made our preparation very good," says jkaem, the team’s second highest rated player at this Major at 1.08. "And the fact that we have been here for almost two months without having to fly across the world like nine times has really helped us as well."
Confidence is sky high in the Renegades camp after they became the first Australian team to qualify for the playoffs of a Major. "I know that this has been the dream for everyone and we have worked hard to make it here," jkaem says. "So in a way, it feels like we are being rewarded! I have not had the time to enjoy it too much yet, though, we are still in it to win!"
Irrespective of what the rest of the tournament brings, Renegades will leave Katowice as one of the Major’s winners. For jkaem, returning to the biggest stage on the planet after a two-year exile is also a personal victory, and he celebrates it as such. "It’s been a long rollercoaster since Cluj-Napoca, and I need to say that I did not think I would be a Legend again after 2017," he admits. "But after I joined Renegades I knew it was possible, and here we are."
Renegades enter the playoff stage as the No.8 side in the world, their highest ranking ever, and jkaem is determined to continue to make history with the team to repay the faith that they showed at a time when many looked at him as a gamble.
"Renegades' offer without a doubt saved my career. I would not be playing here if it were not for them. I am very glad for the opportunity that they gave me."