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Old 10-05-2016, 07:34 PM #1
John
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Pro Files: Pro Player Interview with Axel Gaudin of Russian Legion and TonTons

Axel Gaudin has been one of the most dynamic players to explode on the scene in recent years. He is now well on his way to becoming a seasoned veteran, but in 2012, he was virtually unknown to players here in the US when he debuted with Russian Legion and was up for PBA's Rookie of the Year.


Photo by Camil Touil

I first noticed Axel simply because of his speed and his height. I was watching the TonTons play in Malaysia back in 2011 and asked Davey Williamson (Ironmen, Miami Effect, XSV, Dynasty) who he thought was going to win the Intercontinental Cup. We watched the breakout and Davey said right away, "that guy is going to be really good. You can't teach speed. I think the Tontons will take it." He was right and the TonTons beat Team USA [Ironmen] in the finals. It was no surprise to see him make the pilgrimage over to the States to play against the teams in the world the following year.

When he came to the States, it was obvious Axel was raw talent. He was brutally fast and he literally threw himself at the ground to dodge paint and get in alive. He was instantly recognizable by his flailing style but also by his ability to aggressively push forward through guns. He also made some rookie mistakes but he simply played like he wasn't afraid of anything.

Axel Gaudin has played with three different powerhouse teams here in the United States: Russian Legion, Toulouse Tontons and Art Chaos. He took some time to talk to us in this exclusive interview. Axel's native language is French and I enjoyed the mild differences in his way of communicating in English. If there's something you don't understand, please ask!





What is your jersey number, nickname, years pro, with what pro teams and years on current team?
My jersey number is 91 and I’ve been playing pro for 7 years now. I have been playing with the Tontons for 6 years (with a 1 year break to Art chaos) and I am playing NXL with Russian Legion. Guys from the team like to call me "Racaillou," but I don't have an official nickname at this time.


What’s the most brutal butchering you’ve ever seen or heard of your own name? Ever got a jersey with it spelled incorrectly?
Too many people call me "Alex" way too often, but that’s part of the deal. I've never had trouble with my jerseys or anything like that. The American way to pronounce my name is also more girly than in French, and this is not good ahah. It’s supposed to be more like a flat "Godin" and not "Gaoudine" like some Americans say it.


When and where did you first play paintball?
My first time playing paintball was on holiday with my family in the south of France. It was a random field with trees, bushes and wheels (spools). I remember not moving for like 30 minutes and having my barrel going through two wheels so I can shoot while being behind cover. I was 11, and I must admit a bit scared, but I’ve managed to grow some balls over the years to actually enjoy the game ahah.


From left to right, Axel's Uncle, big brother, father and Axel the year they all won the French Cup title


What was your first paintball gun?
My first paintball gun was a Smart Parts Ion. The club I was playing at got good prices on them in the past, and there was a big trend in France on changing Ion body colors. The gun was definitely a killer to start playing paintball.


What drew you to play more?
After our first paintball game with my family, we went back to Paris and looked for a paintball field near our home. We went back there almost every week with my big brother and my uncle. It was good to find a sport that drew the whole family to the same game.


For what are you best known in the paintball world?
I would say for being short and aggressive down the field, and the fact that I play on the well-known teams Tonton and Russian Legion.


Axel playing with Russian Legion in 2012 - photo by Erik Chateau


How tall are you?
165cm (5' 5")


Do you know how fast you are?
Faster than Kevin Coulm in a 20m sprint that’s all I know!


What other sports did you play? Still play any?
I used to play a lot of Rink-hockey, it’s basically playing hockey with quad roller. I also used to do some motocross because my big brother was really involved in it, but it just wasn’t my thing. When I started to play paintball, I just stopped all my other activities to have more time on the paintball field.


What was it like switching to paintball where being shorter than average was an advantage?
Being shorter definitely makes you a harder target to hit. It was just cool that I was harder to catch compared to some other guys, I feel it makes me able to make some moves that other people can’t because of their height.





What’s the coolest place you have visited due to paintball?
There are definitely some cool places I’ve visited for paintball. Las Vegas was cool because of you know, all the chaos going on over there. Langkawi in Malaysia is pretty amazing too. The first year we went there it was not touristy at all and the island was just awesome and way different than France. There have been so many places where paintball has brought me, it just a cool journey with my friends around the world, enjoying every location one by one.


What do you do for a living?
I work for Drom paintball as a Sales manager. It’s a great option for me too keep playing paintball as intensively as I’m doing it right now. Leaving work for NXL and Millennium takes a tons of time and Drom is the best solution for me to have a job that suits that travel routine. Moreover, working in the paintball market is very cool for me, this is something I am passionate for and it’s a pleasure to work in this sector.


Do you have any major hobbies?
My major hobby is definitely playing paintball, and hanging out with the guys on the team. I like to try different things in sports to enjoy.



Photo by George Fava


What’s your favorite current TV show?
I don’t really watch TV, but I'm watching Narcos at this time.


How has playing paintball impacted your life in a positive way?
I’ve met so many players years after years, it’s crazy. I have people I know to see in every country I go, I can ask them anything and there will be someone to help you, it's a very cool community. To put in another way, I like the fact that paintball drives me in my everyday routine, it gives me a goal and something to reach, to keep discipline for…
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Old 10-05-2016, 07:36 PM #2
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Axel playing with Russian Legion in 2012 - photo by Gary Baum

Can you list all of the teams you’ve ever played with in order?
Whynot (team created by my uncle and me) (Semi 3)
Stambeck (Paris french league/ MillÚnium D3 M5)
Tigres (Paris French league)
Maudits (WTS)
Vision (Pro CPL Millennium)
Tonton (Pro CPL Millennium)
Russian Legion (Pro NXL)
Art Chaos (Pro CPL & NXL Millennium)
Back to Tonton & Russian Legion for 2016


I am assuming you will stay with TonTons, but are you also staying with Russian Legion for next year (if the TonTons don't get an NXL Pro spot)?
I'm not sure yet as the Russians always have a late meeting. I will have a decision by December (I hope) or January (more realistic). But I think I stay with Russian Legion in 2017.


What was your first competitive team? What league did you play?
My first competitive team was Whynot, a team we created with my uncle back in the days when we were practicing at CAMP paintball field. We decided to play a 3man league our first season, then go to 5man the next year. I think we placed something like 3 or 4th, but that’s at the same place we met Alexandre "Sushi" Pizon from Carnage and we started to play together. It’s very cool to see each other progression, it’s just a good feeling to both be in the pro league now.



The Gaudin brothers.


What was your first major/national tournament (and year)?
My first major tournament was Millennium Bitburg 2008 with Stambeck. We took 4th with a team made of 3 original Stambeck players and 2 pick-ups we got just for the event. We were not well prepared but the event was a success for the team. It was also super cool to have my first major event at Nurburgring, when you could watch Pro games and car racing at the same time.

I remember drinking about 12 Redbulls before the games and felt my blood just pumping in my body for my first game, I was just super excited for it!


Haha, hopefully 12 is more than a mild exaggeration! How’d you first get noticed and picked up by your first “big” team?
I was playing M5 Division 3 with Stambeck in 2008 when we went to see Lyonnel Parra from Vision during the London event to ask him about a field where I could practice during my holiday in the south of France. He invited me to the Tonton paintball club, where I then played my first club tournament with some of the best french players. A month later, Lyonnel asked me to come to the Vision tryout and I earned my spot after a month of tryouts. I was just super happy to make it to the pro division, I was young and looking forward for the next step: taking a spot in the starting 5.

At the end of the season with Vision, I’d been approached by both Joy Division and Tonton in Antalya (Turkey) to play for them for the 2010 season. After a long reflection with my dad, we decided to go to Tontons as it was the most pragmatic option for the future. It was just a crazy night, right after the Millennium.


Photo by Erik Chateau


What makes the Tontons one of the best teams in the world?
I think it’s basically the fact that we have the same devouring passion for paintball and winning in general. Everything is a challenge on the Tontons, and we always push each other to do more and better, so I guess that’s how it leads to results. We play more than a lot of teams, and are ready to make a ton of concession to be as competitive as we can. Our heart really is in the game and the paintball world, so we want to practice and be good at it to challenge the best and be one of them.


What do the Tontons need to do to stay the very best?
Keep that hunger we have after every loss, it’s something devastating for the team but we always grow and get stronger from it. The passion for the sport drive us, so just stay on the road!



Photo coutresy of PBA


Not counting yourself, who is the best player on your team (in both leagues)?
I have the chance to play with incredible players. All of them are definitely top killers in the paintball world but we do have 2 players that stand out:

Fabrice "Tavarez" Colombo is one hell of player, he is able to do everything and just get TONS of kills point after point. It’s just a natural instinct gameplay that leads to destruction of the opponents. When he is in good form, not much can stop crazy Tavarez from shooting you.

Alexandre "Maloy" Bernikov is also a super good player, he brings a huge impact to the game every point. He reads the situation very well and knows how to get the best out of it, that’s why you see him making big crazy moves all over the field and being successful. He is a killer that I would definitely put as one if not the best paintball player ever. Mathematical and chaotic at the same time, impressive.


If your teams irrevocably went away tomorrow, what team would you most want to join?
It’s a hard question, Tontons have been around for more than 20 years and the team will be around for a long time. I would like to play for some of the most competitive teams in the paintball world, so I would say Edmonton Impact or San Antonio X-factor.





What player would you most like to play beside that you don’t currently play with?
I would like to play beside Archie Montemayor from Xfactor. He is an awesome player and great person. He is a guy who likes to win on his side of the field and it’s something I like: heads up play.


What player on another team do you dislike playing against the most?
You want to play with someone because you know they are dangerous against, so definitely Archie again. He is a pain in the *** to kill out from his bunker, and his gunfighting skills are just on point.



Axel isn't afraid to get dirty.


What was your breakout moment in paintball?
My breakout moment was in Antalya with Vision. We were 99% sure that we would be relegated after the event, so the teams gave me more playing time than the rest a season and I had a good event. After the event, the infamous team Joy Division came to ask me to play for them then next season during the evening, and like 30 minutes later, Franck Mouren, the Tonton captain, came to me to make me a proposal too for 2010. It was like a super exciting moment for me, I was 16 and couldn’t sleep at night after that. My dad was also super excited, and we made the decision together to go to the Tontons.


What has been your key to longevity and success in the pro ranks?
Just the fact that I’m working on my game I think. I go to the south for a full week to get ready before events. I go from Paris to Marseille every week-end (900km or 560 miles) to play with the team. I think it’s just hunger and passion for the game. I have no problem waking up at 5am for paintball, little different story on my everyday routine.

Our coach is also one of the reason of our success. His out-of-the-field work is just incredible and leads the team to success, he’s just one of the major keys to the team wins.



Playing with Russian Legion in 2012. Photo by Erik Chateau


Basic competitive paintball skills have evolved a lot. Virtually everyone down to D4 now shoots with both hands, dives (somewhat) gracefully and can usually play most any position. What skills do you think will become basic for all levels of play in the future?
I think communication will truly develop itself, it’s one of the most important component of the game and can win matches that are not in your favor just because of it.

I think running & shooting is definitely the hardest move but one of the most important, that’s another sector I can see evolving.


Talk to your fans that want to move up in the ranks. What is a major difference between divisional players and professionals?
A major difference is working toward a common goal as a team and not individualities. We are working a lot as duo/trios and I think divisional players don’t really use their teammate as much as they should.


A lot of divisional teams are playing 5 different 1 on 1's, while pros play 5 on 5. I would say be aware of the rest of the field, try to make your gunfight profitable for a new target, a new move… something that will increase the chance of a team win. Individual miracles work about once every 100 points, teamwork works in the 99 others.



Bunkered in the finals of NXL World Cup - Photo by Brian Morrill
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Old 10-05-2016, 07:36 PM #3
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Not counting this year's World Cup, what event meant the most to you?
Ouffff… so many events/games/points/action mean a lot to me.

The Bitburg 2013 Millennium final (Tonton vs Heat) was a heck of a match, we scored 3 points under a minute to take the win. It was just super intense and a great comeback. In that event, I think we played all the American teams that were here (Infamous, Heat, Impact) and beat them, so it’s a cool feeling as an European team, when you are not able to go compete in the NXL together.

Watch the complete Bitburg 2013 Millennium match here:


London 2016 Millennium was a kind of revival with a bigger point spread against Edmonton Impact. We [Tontons] were losing 5-1, and we came back to win 7-6 in overtime, it was an awesome game where the whole team was hungry for the win. The crowd was on fire and super pumped for a Tonton win, it was just an incredible moment. Russian Legion also won the SPL division, and because we play with them in the USA, we had a very cool night after the Millennium, partying together. That night really shows the connection established between Tontons and Russian Legion for the past seasons, we all understand and appreciate each other's work and all work together to get all better.

There are two tough losses, the first one was in the 2015 Millennium final in Chantilly. We lost in quarter final to Edmonton Impact, the winner of this game was moving forward to play for the title in Semi final against Heat. We just couldn’t find solutions and were dying out of our spots. The terrible feeling of that loss took me out of paintball for about 2 months. A very tough loss hard that was difficult to get away from, it was just something that made me super motivated for the next season.

In the season finale of 2016, again we played for the Millennium title against Impact in the finals. Everything was decided by the results of this final game, and we weren’t able to bring our A game, while Impact doesn’t really have a B ranked game… Hard work pays off, we went to the podium at all events this season [with Tontons in the Millennium]. But if your not first, you're last. That loss was a good reminder of the past and future roads ahead for the team, goals to focus on and new objectives to reach.


What do you regret in paintball?
I don’t regret much, everything is an experience and even if it’s bad you just some some XP out of it. One thing that touched me was the fact that I sat a lot during my Art Chaos season. It was a very good team with super individuals and the fact that I couldn’t step on the starting line affected me and the confidence I had in my game. I have no hard feelings at all, I just regret I was not better at that time.



Right after World Cup 2016. The face of a man disappointed yet determined. Photo by George Fava


That's interesting that you put all the blame on yourself. I remember watching Art Chaos and feeling they weren't always putting the best 5 on the field when they didn't play you. What do you wish you knew when you started playing paintball?
I wish I knew how much in love I would be with it. At the first time, I was scared but when I was 13 I would go play every week, even in bad weather. Now, I’m just hungry for more games and tournaments, more wins and adventures with the team.


What’s the best advice you can give any paintball player that wants to get better?
It’s very hard to give advice to other people, just enjoy the game and play with your team as a whole. Listen to people around you and work on your weaknesses. It’s basic, but solid basic that often leads to solid win. Keep the game simple: fight, dominate, wrap, move.


Jeff Stein recently wrote a short article here that touched on players going to a tryout. What’s the best piece of advice you can give a player going to a tryout who wants to move up in paintball?
At a tryout, teams want to see character and good gameplay. Play with confidence and listen to their advice. It’s a full day under pressure for every player at the tryout, just remember it’s paintball and you never play as good as when you are confident in your play and your teammates. Try to stand out of the group by making others shine, feel free to take risks even if they don’t pay off… I mean just go for it. You are at the tryout, just show 100% of what you have in the tank.



Axel flying down the snake with Art Chaos. Photo by Aztek Photos


That's great advice. An old friend of mine used to say the most important part of a tryout is to "try." I think you're advice mirrors that. What’s the best advice you can give a new tournament player?
Don’t argue with the ref ahah, no decision has even turned back for yelling at the official. Watch other players playing the same spot as you on other teams, try to be the best player at this position/area.


What is sentimental to you in paintball? Why?
I’m just sentimental to the Tontons as a group and all our individuals. I have special feeling for all of them, and I just feel as happy as I could be in this group. Everything is clear between us, and spontaneous. I just love the group I’m playing for, it’s a lot more than just a Pro Paintball team.
I love to have my blue beanie, it just gives me the right Mojo you know ahah.



Tontons back in Dye gear - photo by Eduardo Moll


Is there any piece of gear you would rather not play without?
My blue beanie obviously ☺
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Old 10-06-2016, 10:20 AM #4
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Do you have any superstitions about playing?
Not really, most of the things we do on the field are under our control. There is no real lucky shot or lucky anything so no superstitions.


Besides your team, pick the best team of 2016/2017. And why?
You just can’t pick any other one than Impact for the last 2 seasons. They have been dominating the Pro ranks event after event. They are definitely the team to beat, a lot of strong individuals and good teamwork.


One of our videos has an epic moment from your rookie year in the PSP where you spiked a loader. What’s the most mad you have ever been playing paintball and why?
Ahah, I used to get very frustrated and take myself mentally out of the game. My mind just wanted to control everything and when it wasn’t working I was just getting crazy furious. In that game you talked about, we were playing X-factor I think and were in a crucial point, and my loader was jamming while people were just out of their bunker in front of me! There is nothing more frustrating than that!


Photo by Gary Baum

Video in question:



You play with the TonTons in Millennium and the Russian Legion here in the States. What’s the hardest part switching between teams?

The connection between the two teams is strong and well established now. We have 2 Tontons this season with Russian Legion, but used to have 4 in 2015, so the switching was very easy.
The hard part is the language barrier, some don’t speak very good English so you have to wait for Kirill’s translation and that’s the hard part of our mix. But otherwise, everything works perfectly, we are all working toward the same goal and it’s good to see the group and two teams evolving.


What’s a piece of paintball equipment you’d like to use but you can’t?
I would love to use a mic with teammates. So much information, so much fun too. It would bring paintball to a new level of communication and a lot more reaction in strategies.



Breaking out with Russian Legion at World Cup - photo by Brian Morrill


What do you expect (or hope) to see change in paintball in the next 5 years? 10?
The M500 is a very very good initiative: reduce the cost, increase the number of points. It’s something I would love to have everywhere I’m playing competitive paintball. It just makes the game so much more pure.

I think there will for sure be a new trend in clothes. I think we still carry a lot with us as players on the field, and there must be way to make our suit more efficient, more enjoyable. I hate wearing pod packs, please some paintball company, develop something new already! ☺


What players or people do you owe the most to?
The people I owe the most to are definitely my dad and mom. My dad followed me at every single event I played since the beginning, he's super involved in the sport and in the team, and it’s just a super intense feeling for me to see him supporting me years after year.

I owe a lot to the Tonton as a group and individuals. I’ve exchange so much with them and got incredible life lessons, it’s just crazy how this sport can affect your life as a whole.


Can you remember any piece of advice they gave you that you want to pass on?
"Play some paintball" is some of my favorite coaching advice. Play simple and pure paintball, basic gunfight, move forward and get kills. Just brings you back to the essence of paintball that every one of us fell in love with.



Axel (far right) with his dad and big brother


Do you want to thank any sponsors?
I definitely want to thank all the sponsors that have supported the teams I played for all these years. It’s crazy to have such a good support from those companies who want to help you on your road to the top.

GI sportz, DLX Luxe, Virtue Spire, HK, MacDev & Drom have done so much for us this season, we definitely share our wins together. So thank you to those companies who let us have the best experience of the game, it’s really something I feel fortunate about.


Anything you want to say or people you want to thank to close?
First of all thank to you John for the interview ☺

I just want to say thank you to my family and team, and to the paintball world for generally being the way it is! I just enjoy so much to be with you guys.



Celebrating with Tontons - Photo by Lim Yimei
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Old 12-06-2016, 07:49 AM #5
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Thanks again to all the of the fantastic photographers that contributed and to Axel for being so patient to answer all of these questions.
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Old 12-06-2016, 08:07 AM #6
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This is one of my favorites of this interview series so far. Its cool to see a little bit longer of an interview.

RL came to practice us before three of the events last season and it was always an awesome practice. Its refreshing to see some of the different ways they think about the field layouts as opposed to some of the American teams.
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Old 12-06-2016, 08:10 AM #7
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Old 12-06-2016, 08:14 AM #8
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Originally Posted by DemoKids View Post
This is one of my favorites of this interview series so far. Its cool to see a little bit longer of an interview.

RL came to practice us before three of the events last season and it was always an awesome practice. Its refreshing to see some of the different ways they think about the field layouts as opposed to some of the American teams.
Glad you liked it!

Can you think of any specific examples of what RL did differently on a new layout?
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Old 12-06-2016, 08:59 AM #9
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Glad you liked it!

Can you think of any specific examples of what RL did differently on a new layout?
Good example is maybe how they played the dorito side at World Cup. At practice they decided they wouldn't be able to make it wide on dorito side with any kind of high %, so they stopped doing it all together. For almost an entire day at practice they did not send anybody past the short can on that side. They just let Kiril & Golev shut down the dorito side by themselves, and let 3 guys attack the snake side or sent the third body up the center. That way they had Malloy, Leo, and Axel all very fast aggressive players attacking one side of the field.

If you watch the semi-finals match against X-Factor they don't send a guy wide on that side the entire match until they are up 3 with 30 seconds left. It's just cool to see how quickly they make the decision that the risk isn't worth it, and committed to that idea. Obviously it worked pretty well for them that event. It was fun to see those guys make the finals again.
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Old 12-06-2016, 10:57 AM #10
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That was an extremely classy interview.

Thanks for sharing!
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Old 12-06-2016, 10:59 AM #11
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Great interview and a great series. It's really interesting to see how each pro player approaches their love and profession.
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Old 12-06-2016, 11:16 AM #12
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That was an extremely classy interview.

Thanks for sharing!
He's French! Of course he is classy!


Quote:
Originally Posted by kalvinbal View Post
Great interview and a great series. It's really interesting to see how each pro player approaches their love and profession.
Ahhh, good point.

Here are the others I have done in this series:

Archie Montemayor of San Antonio Xfactor - http://www.pbnation.com/showthread.php?t=5245314
Raney Stanczak of Edmonton Impact - http://www.pbnation.com/showthread.php?t=5281442
Ryan Greenspan of San Diego Dynasty - http://www.pbnation.com/showthread.php?t=5321210
Drew Templeton of Chicago Aftershock - http://www.pbnation.com/showthread.php?t=5429042

I think that's it. Man, for all the work that goes into these, I thought there would be more of them. I need to quit slacking.

Who do you guys want to see next?
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Old 12-06-2016, 11:27 AM #13
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Maybe I'm an aging nutcase, but I'd kind of like to hear from some of the guys who have made the transition from prominent pro player into a coach/team owner/other industry role. Rich Telford, Chris Lasoya, Travis Lemanski come to mind.
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Old 12-06-2016, 11:29 AM #14
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I would like like to see Corey Field do one, he has been through the glory days of major sponsorship to today where budgets are tight.
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Old 12-06-2016, 11:41 AM #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pump Scout View Post
Maybe I'm an aging nutcase, but I'd kind of like to hear from some of the guys who have made the transition from prominent pro player into a coach/team owner/other industry role. Rich Telford, Chris Lasoya, Travis Lemanski come to mind.
this, as well as other industry heads like:

paintball legend Dan Colby
Simon Stevens
Richmond Italia
Bob Long
Matty Marshall
John Dresser


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Old 12-06-2016, 01:21 PM #16
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I've always enjoyed watching Gaudin playing... I had the opportunity to attend to the 4 millennium events this year and watch them play...

Watching TonTon playing is just amazing, their style is really unique and enjoyable to watch... Dynamic, agressive, unpredictable... I dont think there is a team more fun to watch than TonTon!...

Awesome interview... Thanks for bringing this to us paintball freaks!
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Old 12-06-2016, 01:28 PM #17
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Awesome interview!
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Old 12-06-2016, 01:30 PM #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John View Post

Who do you guys want to see next?
I would love to see Konstantin Federov, there is a very special way he approaches the game and it would be great to hear about that.
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Old 12-06-2016, 05:07 PM #19
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Great interview

Kirill (sp) would be good. Never met the guy but from Matty's interviews I really like that guy.
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Old 12-06-2016, 06:32 PM #20
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Best interview so far I think. Well worded and quite humble, which sometimes isn't the case in this sport. And hey - props to families that support their kids in their endeavors! Pops on Damage always touched my heart working away in the pits. That Virtues of Paintball piece with him had me chopping onions. Always enjoyed seeing Axel play and watching the Russians. I've said it before - they have a distinctly different play style than many of the American teams and it shows. Congrats on you and the team getting so far this year and can't wait to see next years.

Speaking of Damage, I'd love to see an interview with Jason Edwards. He's been around a long time and has worn many hats with Damage. He's got a good story to him as well.

Props to TJ coming in and giving props where its due.
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Old 12-06-2016, 06:40 PM #21
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Great interview.
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