In Paramin "Onigiri" Suwanwattana’s own words, 2022 was a “bumpy year” for his Elevate team.
It started off in stellar fashion, as the Thai squad made its international debut at the Six Invitational 2022 and immediately placed in the top 12 -- the same as then-title favourites DWG KIA. Onigiri also broke the Invitational single-map kill record, securing a monstrous 27 kills on just Oregon against Rogue.
The success continued in Stage 1, as a new-look Elevate qualified for the Charlotte Major, but factors outside of their control brought things to a halt. Stringent requirements saw Elevate be one of four teams to fail to get their visas to the United States and they were left behind.
Undeterred, they threw themselves into Stage 2 and once against secured qualification to the Major. This time, they managed to secure their visas to Germany and came home from Berlin after nearly making it to the semi-finals.
Once again, though, problems were to come.
“Everyone have their own problem, like… DCH has to go to the university,” said Onigiri in an interview with SiegeGG ahead of the Six Invitational 2023.“It’s like very far from the camp and that’s what make us cannot play in the team house (in Stage 3).”
The sudden change in environment was too much for even the addition of Gabriel "LaXInG" Mirelez to offset and Elevate missed out on the Jönköping Major in disappointing fashion. Despite that, their first two stage results and other results in Jönköping meant that Elevate qualified for the Six Invitational 2023 anyway.
LaXInG brought with him seven years worth of experience as a player, as well as perspective from an entirely different -- and more successful -- region. However, his entire experience had come as a player and his one-stage stint with Elevate as coach was his debut in the role.
“I miss him,” said Onigiri, but conceded that the odds had been stacked against LaXInG given that he only had six games to make his mark on the team. The problem was exacerbated as only Onigiri understood English well enough to communicate smoothly with him.
This prevented his teammates from picking up on the mentality a successful player like LaXInG brought -- especially during tactical timeouts. Feedback from players was also limited as a result, as the other players were only fluent in Thai.
Elevate analyst Suphawit "nanoKidz" Kasemsirisopha thus took the step up into the coaching role following LaXInG’s departure, but Onigiri believes his team will not miss a beat in the transition.
“The coach before LaXInG wasn’t that help that much… so we kinda like rely on ourselves, like player,” he said. “We not relying on coach too much, because … if you rely on the coach too much and when you need the timeout you ask your coach and he didn’t give the right answer that you need… that’s just my opinion.”
While perhaps non-traditional in their perspectives on coaching, Elevate have the advantage of being one of just 10 teams so far that have not made player changes ahead of the Invitational. This marks a change from their previous two international events that featured international debutants each time.
“I’m pretty confident with the performance of my team right now,” said Onigiri, given his team’s experience at this point and their improvements in scrimmages. “I feel confident we’re going to make a deep run.”
Key to that confidence is Onigiri’s gleeful declaration that his team enjoys a “flexibility” stemming from a proclivity towards doing “stupid things” like walking in unorthodox, “out-of-the-box” places.
His team also prefers to stay free from shackling players to fixed roles, instead opting to assign operators to players based on how much of a shock-factor they can feasibly deliver in each round.
But one thing that won’t be changing for Onigiri will be his preference to play Aruni, despite Ubisoft opting to reduce her movement speed to one (down from two).
“It’s not affecting me, like the aim-down sight speed things,” he said. “I feel like the people that complaining … I think they have some skill issue.”
Catch Onigiri in his attempt to break his own record next month, as Elevate travel to Montreal for their second Six Invitational.
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