MANILA - In the past three days, Singapore e-sports player Thomas Kopankiewicz, who admits he is not a morning person, has been up early playing at a LAN gaming cafe in the Philippines.
But it was not just fun and games for the 24-year-old, not with a SEA Games gold medal at stake in the Starcraft II grand final on Tuesday (Dec 10).
Though he lost 4-1 to the hosts' Caviar Acampado, he is pleased with his outing at the biennial Games, where e-sports is one of nine sports making their debut.
His silver is Singapore's second medal at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan after Chew Khai Kiat's bronze in Hearthstone this week.
He said: "I was told that today's tournament is at 10 or 11 o'clock, so I started going down to the LAN cafe at 10. If you play at night, you're going to be tired in the morning and I'm not a morning person, so I wanted to rehearse myself for the exact timings here."
Kopankiewicz, who lost 2-1 to Acampado in the group stages, described his journey to the Games as a "crazy Cinderella story".
Born to a Polish father and Chinese mother, he moved to Singapore at the age of four and became a citizen only this year.
While initially not selected by the Singapore National Olympic Council, the Singapore E-Sports Association filed a successful appeal.
Attendance was sparse on Tuesday but the few spectators in the arena ensured a relatively noisy atmosphere. A group of about 10 in one corner chanted "Defence!" in support of Acampado, while others made full use of clappers to show their support.
Starcraft II and Hearthstone are two of six games featured in the e-sports competition. The others are Arena of Valor, Dota 2, Tekken 7 and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang.
Kopankewicz noted: "Sports started out as something recreational, then people got competitive - and then came the demand to watch it. I'm glad that they're embracing this change and pushing for what the youth want to see.
"It's great that we're on the same platform as conventional sports and we're going to get eyes from the conventional media, from big audiences."
What about those who do not consider e-sports a real sport?
Hearthstone bronze medallist Chew, 22, said: "It's not important. The most important thing about sport is that you get the best people from each country to play against one another - so you can see the best skills and best players on the pitch or in the playing area.
"(E-sports) is about the best players playing together and (putting up) a great game for everyone to watch. That's what sport is about, and I think e-sports is the same."