twenty3: "Even if there are girls who can play on the same level, they don't have orgs supporting them"

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Nigma Galaxy have been the dominant force in women’s CS:GO for a long time now, and Alexandra “twenty3” Timonina is one of the players at the center of that. We got the chance to talk to her at ESL Impact Katowice 2023 about their success, as well as the growth of the female scene.

Sam “AN1MO” McKenzie, BLIX.GG: You guys started well here and you're already through to the semi-finals. How are you feeling about all of that?
Alexandra "twenty3" Timonina:
It's what we expected. It feels really nice to be in the semis again but that's something that we knew we were going to reach and obviously, we're expecting to win this tournament.

BLIX: You guys have been the dominant force in women's CS:GO for a long time now. What do you attribute that success to and what sets you apart from the other teams?
twenty3:
I think what sets us apart from the other teams is working and practicing a lot. Our normal practice days last for seven to eight hours and before that, we always do a warm-up routine that lasts one hour. We have had this consistency for a long time already and because of our organization, which helps us not think about anything except playing and focusing on the game, I think that's the main thing that helps us.

BLIX: Your opponents tomorrow are FURIA who you've had battles with for a while. Are you worried about facing them at all?
twenty3:
I'm not worried about facing FURIA tomorrow because I think right now, they're not in their best shape because they changed players, and they’re in their first tournament with that new player, they may have made some changes in positions and some other things so I think they're not in the best shape. But of course, we're still going to do what we have to do. We're gonna try hard to win this match because they're still quite strong.

BLIX: Would you say that you're all confident in winning another event here?
twenty3:
I think we have this confidence of winning because, before this tournament, we were in a boot camp for three weeks and we played so much actually that we have a plan for each game and each map and that's why I think we don't feel that worried. For example, in the first tournament in Dallas, everyone was more stressed because we never played against other teams. It was very worrying to play and we didn't know what to expect from them, but now, we kind of know all of them and we just have to have a good day, shoot good, and that's all.

BLIX: I know you said earlier that you feel you prepared well, but in general, within the female scene, you are just so much better. But with a lot of the other organizations, is the way they look at the game holding women's CS:GO back?
twenty3:
I've been thinking a lot about it, why there is such a big difference between male and female [CS:GO] and I think one of the main differences is that the female scene is not supported as much as the male scene. Even if there are girls who can play on the same level, they don't have organizations supporting them through their journey and they have to think a lot about other stuff than just playing in life like paying their bills. There is not enough support from the organizations. If there's going to be more organizations like FURIA and Na'Vi involved in the scene, there are going to be more players who will give their full potential to this game and there are going to be better results and the female scene is going to grow. But for now, because it's not enough, I think that's one of the main differences. Plus, the female scene is so much smaller than the male scene and it's harder for girls to improve because there's so much sexism in this game that if you're a girl, for example, we faced it so many times with my team in which we book a practice session with some male teams and they just decline it because they think we're bad and we're girls. That's something we're still facing and it's hard to get over this barrier, I would say, and it's gonna take time. For example, in football, there is a different physique, but if you play a game, you have the same physique. You don't need to have a better physical [condition]. You still use your hands and everyone can play the game, it's only a matter of how many hours you put into the game to become the best.

BLIX: Do you think then if male teams weren't declining these practice requests, that would be the thing that could close the gap between both scenes?
twenty3:
I think it would be one of the steps to close the gap, maybe not fully because girls have to play much more than males. That's because sometimes it's just a matter of experience as they don't have enough experience in playing enough tournaments, and the level of women’s CS is worse. You get this experience much slower than if you play against guys, and of course, if you play more against guys, there is a greater chance for girls to play more. They will improve faster, but I think it's only a matter of time.

BLIX: You guys were invited to the CCT [Central Europe Series #2] Closed Qualifier and you kind of struggled, but how long do you think it would take for you to get to a point where you're competing and challenging in these events and can qualify?
twenty3:
I would say that even now since we got invited, we've already improved a lot. Before, we were mainly struggling in the ESEA [Main] League last season, and now, we're playing much better. We played, I think, eight or seven games and we won four of them and our scores are much closer. You can see that we're getting better in due time because we've been practicing lately a lot against advanced-level teams and it's something that gives us a lot of experience to work on our mistakes and improve. I would say that, maybe this year, we can actually show something against male teams and beat them. From the last ESEA tournament, we had a few close games but we lost them, so the next time we play them, I think we're gonna close them.

BLIX: Do you think you guys deserve to already play against the men's teams or is it something that you still need to earn despite your dominance?
twenty3:
I think we deserve to be there and I'm sure that we're going to show good results there. That's what I'm sure of.

BLIX: How much does playing events like these help you in preparation for that?
twenty3:
I would say, in these events, they make our preparation consistent because we are focused on it and our main goal is to win, but apart from that, while you're preparing for this event and the next one, you're improving a lot as a player and a team. That's something that is also going to help us to beat male teams for sure.

BLIX: Let's say you win this event this weekend. What are your hopes and expectations for the rest of the year?
twenty3:
Our second goal, apart from winning the female events, is qualifying for the ESEA Advanced League this year and also showing good results there. Maybe winning some qualifiers or beating some good Tier-2 teams is something that's gonna show that we improved a lot since last year.

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Sam "AN1MO" McKenzie

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