Winning the first-ever VALORANT Game Changers Championship on Sunday in Berlin was significant for all five members of G2 Gozen, but for different reasons. For youngsters Maryam "Mary" Maher and Anastasiya "Glance" Anisimova, it was their biggest accomplishment. For Julia "juliano" Kiran, Petra "Petra" Stoker and Michaela "mimi" Lintrup, winning the Game Changers Championship was a highlight despite already having a career full of highlights and championship moments.
With lengthy careers competing in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) before moving to VALORANT, that’s a big deal. Petra had been competing in CS:GO since 2015. Mimi, formerly known as mimimicheater and mimimichaela, was a pro in CS:GO since 2013. Juliano’s playing days stretch back to 2010.
“For me personally, I think that is one of the biggest wins next to the Valencia win for me,” Petra said in a postgame press conference following G2 Gozen’s win in the Game Changers Championship final.
The tournament she was referring to was Dreamhack Showdown Valencia 2019, a $100,000 tournament that had one of the biggest prize pools ever for a women’s CS:GO tournament. For comparison, the VALORANT Game Changers Championship had a $500,000 prize pool, making it likely the largest prize pool -- by far -- in any esports tournament for women and marginalized gender players.
Juliano, the most veteran of the trio, joked that she had won so much in her career that she couldn’t remember some of her other big tournament wins before pointing to Valencia too.
Juliano's biggest CS:GO tournament win was Dreamhack Valencia.
“It means a lot,” juliano said. “It’s the second time I’ve cried when winning, so obviously it meant a lot to me, and I only cried once before, and that was the Valencia win, so yeah, big moment for sure.”
Juliano and Petra won Dreamhack Valencia with Beşiktaş Esports alongside longtime teammate Zainab "zAAz" Turkie, who was originally on G2 Gozen before retiring from VALORANT earlier this year. She was, of course, in the stands in Berlin cheering on her former teammates with whom she had enjoyed so much success.
In fact, from 2016 to 2017, the trio of juliano, zAAz and mimi won the Intel Challenge Katowice and the Copenhagen Games in both years as the most dominant women’s CS:GO roster from that time.
ZAAz cheers on her former teammates. Photo credit: Riot Games
Mimi was not on the Dreamhack Valencia-winning team (though she was at that tournament with Copenhagen Flames Female), so naturally the Game Changers Championship win was at the top of her career accomplishments.
“I spent 12 years of my life in CS,” mimi said. “And going to VALORANT knowing that the competition is so big and so many players, winning a world championship in two games is …”
Mimi was briefly at a loss for words at the momentous nature of the accomplishment, before landing on “surreal” to describe how she felt.
Mimi poses with the Game Changers Championship trophy. Photo credit: Riot Games
Many VALORANT players are former CS:GO players who have switched over to Riot Games’ FPS game since it was released in 2020. Not many can say they are champions in both games though. Juliano, Petra and mimi join Nicholas "nitr0" Cannella among the few players who can say they have won international LAN tournaments in both games.
On the other side of the stage from G2 Gozen during the final was Shopify Rebellion, a much younger team but one who had one veteran CS:GO player who was attempting to do what juliano, Petra and mimi did. Benita "bENITA" Novshadian tweeted out before the final that she had faced juliano many times in CS:GO, including four finals.
BENITA also lost to juliano, mimi and zAAz at the Intel Challenge Katowice and Copenhagen Games 2016. However, she was the one lifting the trophy over juliano, Petra and zAAz at the NEST Pro Series 2019. BENITA also beat that trio in the semifinals of the Copenhagen Games 2019 and mimi, who was on another team, in the final of that tournament.
The VALORANT Game Changers circuit will resume next year, with more chances for bENITA to get a VALORANT international title and for juliano, mimi and Petra to pick up more hardware. As their history in CS:GO has shown, it’s likely these players will meet again in an international tournament in 2023 and beyond.
Lead photo credit: Riot Games
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