Anathan "ana" Pham is one of Australia's greatest hopes in the world of esports. Only 17, the OG solo mid lane talent has already won two Majors with his team, and has his eyes set on his first The International.
Although his home country of Australia and the Oceanic region as a whole has experienced a rapid growth in esports over the past few years -- especially recently with the entrance of Australian Football League clubs entering the mix -- the region itself has been light on heroes in the top echelon of esports. Teams and players in both Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and League of Legends have failed to pierce the top tiers in their respective games.
Ana, who dropped out of high school and moved from his family home in Melbourne two years ago to pursue his dream of becoming a professional player in China, might be that transcendent player who inspires the next kid in Australia, watching The International on Twitch on his laptop, to think of what could be possible.
"Really?" said ana, dumbfounded he could be seen as one of the leading faces of his country for esports. A consumer of only Dota, he doesn't pay attention to the other games going around him or the other Oceanic stars in today's esports except for fellow International attendee Damien "kpii" Chok, who stars on China's Newbee.
And like many esports pros, it took a little while for his family to warm up to the idea of playing video games for a living.
"[My parents] were very against [going pro], but I had a supportive brother so he helped me," he said. "They're pretty cool with it now. Now they support me. It's really cool."
OG, a team which began from the bottom without much or any financial support, has grown into one of the bigger brands in Dota 2 in less than two years, and that's never been more apparent than its recent partnership with Red Bull, the energy drink behemoth picking up the team before the event in Seattle began.
"It's really nice," said ana on the new sponsorship. "You can get help when you need it and whenever you want."
One issue Red Bull can't help OG with is its placing heading into the main-event. A mediocre group stage performance positioned the team one win below what it needed to advance in the upper bracket, and it will begin its journey to change the heartbreak of 2016 in the losers bracket, where one match loss spells the end of another failed chance to take home the world title following an otherwise stellar campaign year.
If one team knows how to succeed in the face of elimination, it would be OG. Before the big sponsorships and dynasty talks, OG was an underdog, placed in the losers bracket of the inaugural Dota 2 Major in Frankfurt; its run through the lower bracket en route to a victory over Team Secret in the final was what put OG on the map, and what each team placed with its back against the walls at the main-event hope to replicate.
When ana's journey around the world from Australia to China to Israel to various other countries to compete around the world began, he was excited, relishing to experience the world as a youngster pursuing his dream. Over the course of time, the routine, the hours and hours of traveling have caught up to him along with homesickness, but the teenager knows what needs to be done to accomplish his dream. "12 hours on a plane, it gets kind of boring ... But it's what you have to do, and it's worth it in the end."
All the travel and hours of practice have led up to this one week. A single defeat, and ana and OG's run for redemption is over. Ana will have time to return to home after the world championship before the campaign for next year begins, and if he can recapture some of the magic of the old OG, the one that started it all, it could be a return of not only a country's ace but a return of a newly crowned champion.
"[I'm] going to do my best and have fun...I just want to play on the main stage" said ana, illuminating the fact that behind all the challenges, he's still a kid, playing a game he loves as a job while thousands watch live from an arena and millions behind their television and computer screens from home. "Thanks to [Australia] for cheering for me, and I hope I can do you proud."