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Rapha - blessed with a gift for Q3

By Michal 'Carmac' Blicharz
May 19, 2008 16:57

ImageIn Poland, when a footballer suddenly emerges as one of the top players in the country, the press often says that he sprung out like a devil out of a box. That is just the story with SK's Shane "rapha" Hendrixson.

SK's Quake 3 player broke into the top four of the American ESWC qualifier with ease and looks like a favourite to win himself a ticket to the Grand Final in San Jose. Some say he is the favourite to win the entire event. The world has yet to test his true strength, but the number of doubters is not growing.

The three-times QuakeCon winner John ”ZeRo4” Hill says that of all the contemporary players he would be worried about meeting rapha the most in a tournament bracket. That is possibly the best recommendation that the youngster from Rockford, Illinois can get.

So why have you not heard of him before?

"My advantage is being able to be not just one but at times three, four, sometimes even five steps ahead of what they're going to do."
When Quake 3 came out, rapha was around 11 years old. He fell in love with a game that had ”the perfect balance of speed, tactics and skill all rolled into one.” A couple of years later, seeing how ZeRo4, Johnathan "Fatal1ty" Wendel or Anton "Cooller" Singov played the game woke up the competitive drive in rapha. But his awakening as a star player had to wait until now.

"Part of that has to do with not being able to play every day or other day to learn the game and continue to progress in experience and skill from 2003 when I started dueling,” he explains. ”I hadn't had a connection of my own till just this past Thanksgiving.”

The player's parents are divorced, rapha stayed mostly with his mother and did not have an internet connection to play from. He played as much Quake 3 as he could from his dad's place, but it came to an end when his father moved away.

But rapha did not let that stop him. Cut off from the virtual arenas, he kept up with the competitive game by studying demos and trying to pick up any bit of knowledge there was to learn from them.

Image"I guess the only reason I'm where I am at now is just being blessed with a gift for this game, I suppose."

After he re-entered the virtual world for good he quickly grew to be feared, his game being somewhat reminiscent to that of ZeRo4. His style is one with a strong mental game and the ability to adapt well.

"I'd say getting into the head of my opponent," rapha describes his biggest strengths. "Being able to be not just one but at times three, four, sometimes even five steps ahead of what they're going to do. And if they change something other than what I thought, being able to adapt quickly to the change and doing what I can to turn it in my favour. Sometimes my aim helps, but to me I aim well because of the way I think. It's not really a big reflex thing."

"I can't just go in expecting it to be given to me. I want to stay humble and hungry for every win."
The first goal for rapha is simple:

"I'm pushing myself to win the ESWC qualifier," the player says, "but I have to earn it. I can't just go in expecting it to be given to me. I want to stay humble and hungry for every win."

Rapha feels that the timing is right for him to rise to the highest level in the game - with a good connection, enough time to prepare and possibly the best sparring partner, ZeRo4. ESWC Masters of Paris could be the next stop.

Both SK players are training for the Masters, hoping to be invited and to bring home first and second place.

"For me, my goal is to go and win it," he declares. "If ZeRo4 and I play in the finals, my goal is still to win but if he were to beat me, I would not be too disappointed. It will be interesting playing against old styles along with new, I'll just have to find some way to adapt, to make it work. But I believe I can do it."

While most others have had years to try and become the number one at Quake 3, this man only has a few tournaments. And very little time left. That is why he does not even think of beating just one player at the ESWC.

"I want to win the whole thing," he says. "I'll take each game as if it is my last."




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