KKOMA

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When you think of SK Telecom T1, there are many faces that you think of, just lượt thích the team’s achievements.

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There are many who will be remembered for their glorious moments on the Summoner’s Rift, but you absolutely cannot forget the one who puppeteered those greats as the coach và head coach, Kim “kkOma” Jeong-gyun. Recently, he said goodbye lớn the team that he’s been with for 7 years, and everyone started talking about it.From a young man who first joined the scene under StarTale, kkOma is already 33 years old. As a hard working member of society, he’s at a crossroads of his life. Compared to lớn his younger days, he himself underwent much change. Not only is he a man with 8 LCK titles, 2 MSI titles, and 3 world championship titles under his name, he grew out his once-short hair, & now about khổng lồ marry the love sầu of his life.After hearing the news about kkOma’s departure from T1, I quickly contacted hlặng for an interview. Knowing how I won’t be able to lớn see hyên less often, I was in a hurry. I wanted lớn talk to lớn the man that was behind the veils of his incredible achievements. Hoping that I’ll be able to have a deeper conversation with a man that’s always protective sầu of his players in official interviews, I hopped on the subway for the conversation.

“After deciding to lớn go to another team, I joined the FA race very late. I’m working hard to lớn bring in great players lớn the team. There’s a lot of people that I need lớn meet, but I don’t have the time lớn vì so. And yes, I’m also preparing for the wedding. Despite my hectic schedule, I’m grateful that Ji-soo (kkOma’s fiancée) has been such a great help. Ji-soo… I was just so focused on my work that I couldn’t bởi a lot for her.”After T1’s official announcement, kkOma’s days become very hectic. Not just because of work, but also because of his wedding preparations, he was in a spot where he needed clones khổng lồ get everything done. Despite being in the situation, he repeatedly expressed his appreciation to lớn his bride-to-be that was very understanding and supportive.I suddenly became curious of his younger days. Was he a model student, just as how sharp he looked with a notebook during matches? Or was he just a person who purely enjoyed the games, his seemingly quiet private life & image?“When I was young, I was very optimistic & bright. I think I was a happy kid who looked at everything with optimism. I viewed everything in life as good. When I was a student, I only played games. It was a simpler time where I didn’t know anything about the realities in life, & just played games. Even when I became trăng tròn, and after I finished my compulsory military service, the world still looked very bright and I was very happy. I may sound like I’m bragging, but I was the type that had lớn achieve every single goal set for myself.In order to lớn achieve my goals, I gave sầu myself a lot of time. For example, during the time that I started streaming, I have sầu never once verbally cursed back then. I knew that if I may be on official broadcasts someday; if I cursed, it can cause problems in the future. I always lived my life lượt thích that, by setting long-term goals. Obviously, there were moments where I was stressed out in achieving those goals, but over time, those moments of bít tất tay came baông xã lớn me as moments of accomplishments.”“There were many fun things that happened. I wanted to lớn bởi vì well on the show (‘I am Carry’) that I was asked to lớn be on. I thought that in order khổng lồ vì chưng well on the show, I needed khổng lồ be good at the game, so I just played League all day. All I did was practice all week except for the days that I needed lớn go to lớn the studio. Because of it, my rank naturally went up, and I was offered to play top for Azubu Btia laze. That was 2012, which is already 7 years ago.However, I had only played jungle while ranking up to lớn hit high elo. But to lớn be asked top… A player told me, ‘You just need to lớn use The Equalizer well,’ but I wasn’t even confident in doing that. I rethành viên declining the offer because I felt, ‘This isn’t going lớn over well if I join’. The point of this story is that because I worked really hard after setting a goal, I was offered many opportunities. I really worked harder than anyone else.”

▲ kkOma, Ryu “Ryu” Sang-wook and Won “Mafa” Sang-yeon during the StarTale days.

Goals, effort, và the opportunities that follow. I felt that I was already learning something from an interview that had only just started. So, how did kkOma become interested in games in the first place, even before setting such goals? Also, how did he enter the cold-blooded world of pros?“I started gaming by playing Starcraft 1 in middle school. I was good at the gaming bachồng then as well. Starcraft was just a hobby of mine, but I was still the best in my neighborhood. After that, I played Warcraft 3, & it was so fun that I decided to lớn try going pro. However, my parents at the time didn’t allow me, so I gave sầu on that dream at the time.After some time had passed, when I was in my early 20s, I was playing & streaming ‘Chaos’, a Warcraft 3 custom bản đồ. Even when I was playing Chaos, I was also grinding ranked games on Warcraft 3. Then, when I was 26, I heard that whoever’s on the top of the ladder, maybe around top 100, they would get the beta demo codes for Starcraft 2. I was eventually picked as a tester, và despite my old age, in order lớn pursue my childhood dream, I gave sầu up many things and became a Starcraft 2 pro player. I also remember playing my very last Chaos tournament with Lee “PoohManDu” Jeong-hyeon baông xã then."“Starcraft 2 was in its infancy at the time, so I was able to appeal my “work experience” with the number of games I played, và I was very lucky to join a pro team. After that, I practiced a lot of in-game builds, but I was only playing old all-in or cheese builds, so I quit being a Starcraft 2 pro. Then, I heard about LoL, & StarTale proposed me a role so I was able lớn start a different life as a LoL pro người chơi. Despite being so long ago, it all seems like it happened yesterday.”In the world where 16 year olds start preparing their pro gaming career, kkOma’s career started 10 years too late. However, by setting goals & working towards them, he was able to lớn go on a new adventure. Was he able to lớn treasure memories in his early 20s because of becoming pro at an older age? I knew that many pro gamers spover the prime of their youth practicing, so I asked kkOma if he has any regrets at the time, & any other dreams before becoming a pro.“Bachồng then, I was so focused that I didn’t even have time for regrets. After some time, I realized that there are things that I can vì later on that I missed out baông xã then, so in a way, things worked out for the better. I believe sầu that it’s hard lớn achieve sầu anything without sacrifice. If you’re working towards a goal, you need lớn learn to lớn give sầu up on certain things. If I did everything that I wanted khổng lồ baông chồng then, the current me wouldn’t exist. I made my choices.If you ask me what I wanted khổng lồ be before gaming... There’s nothing else but wanting khổng lồ become a pro gamer và win competitions.”

His early khổng lồ mid 20s seemed more consistent than I thought. Then, in December of 2012, now in his late 20s, kkOma makes a huge decision in his life. He joined SKT T1 as a coach, and with his cautious approach khổng lồ h& picking the legendary SKT players, he took his first step in becoming the figure that everyone knows & loves.“At the time, Choi “cCarter” Byeong-hoon contacted me, & told me that Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu was with the team as well. I went to visit the team, and after carefully talking to the management, I joined the team.When SKT was picking their players, all the testees went through 2 months of tryouts. They all went through rough testing processes, such as mixing the players up, & endless hours of voice comms & spectating. There were a lot of now-famous players that went through that process baông xã then.”“However, the sole player that joined the team without any tryouts was Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok. Rather than lớn say he didn"t have sầu any tryouts, testing wasn"t necessary, & the sole reason was because he was simply that good. Faker was a cut above the rest, I wanted hyên ổn to lớn work with him, and he was the one member that the team absolutely needed, so we signed hyên right away. Even if there weren"t any other members in the team yet, I"m grateful that Faker joined right away. After that, in order lớn fill the team with great players, countless hours of tryouts followed.After observing Bae “Bang” Jun-sik và Lee “Wolf” Jae-wan for a long time, I had a hunch that these two players will vì chưng incredibly well. I’m also grateful to both of them for living up lớn my expectations over a very long period of time.I want lớn thank all the players that have sầu been working hard towards nothing but victory. If I were to các mục the players that I need to thank, it’ll be endless. When Lee “Scout” Ye-chan contacted me for a wedding invitation, I realized that everyone’s keeping up with how I’m doing. Although I was pretty harsh when it came to lớn work, I’m grateful that they contact me after all this time. However, I do get a lot of calls, so things are a bit hard (laughter). There are too many players, so I don’t have sầu the time to lớn meet all of them one by one.”“Speaking of the bot duo, I want to say something for Wolf. Although I support every single player that was part of SKT, I heard the news of his retirement. I hope that many will support hlặng, who now prepares for the second chapter of his life. Also, to all the SKT players that will eventually announce his retirement, I hope many will be supportive of them as well.”A man that really values human relationships. As much as he’s grateful, his stern image as a coach is just as big. From the nicknames, ‘kkOma’s whip’ và ‘kkOma’s belt’, he appeared to lớn be very stern in the videos that featured hyên ổn after games. On the flip side, he’s also appeared khổng lồ be very friendly with all the players on SKT, even those that left the team. What did he think about the various angles of how he appeared to be?“Through a đoạn phim, everything comes off a bit more svào và stimulating.

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To be honest, I don’t act lượt thích how I usually am in front of a camera, because I hope that all the focus would be on the players. I humbly ask lớn not believe sầu everything that you see in a đoạn Clip.I feel awkward to lớn say this because it comes off as bragging… but I believe sầu that you can’t always be stern lớn build trust with the players and have sầu a long-lasting relationship. I believe sầu that I found the right balance between being stern in feedbachồng và caring for them on a personal màn chơi. I want khổng lồ say that I put a lot of effort in caring for the players behind the scenes. It’s really hard lớn make the players lượt thích their head coach, not just in esports, but in all sports.The nicknames lượt thích ‘kkOma’s belt’ aren’t really discouraging. If the team’s underperforming, It’s natural for those nicknames to lớn follow. However, I want lớn emphakích thước that I’m not always stern, and that I put in a lot of effort in caring for the players. And no, I never took off my belt (laughter).”

SKT is a team that even the most simplest video can bring forth small to big controversies. What was his reason for sticking with a team that everyone was keeping an eye on? Was it comfort? Perhaps affection? When was kkOma happiest and the toughest moments with the team? Now that he’s left the team, we took some time to lớn take a trip down memory lane.“Personally, I love staying in one spot for a long period of time (laughter). I was with the team for a long time because… I just loved everything about it. From the fans, management, and the organization, I loved them all. Surprisingly, the money was irrelevant, because I was consistently offered a lot of money from orgs overseas. However, I was able to continue with the team because I loved everything about SKT.”“To pichồng the happiest moment… It’s a hard question khổng lồ answer. I think it was when we reverse swept the finals vs. KT Rolster lớn win our very first LCK finals. Yes, that was when the famous Zed moment happened. It was my first LCK finals as a coach, & when we lost the first two matches against KT, I really wanted lớn just go trang chính. Many of the upper management from the team were there, so I was under an immense amount of pressure. The management was so proud of me for leading the team inkhổng lồ the finals in my very first year, và with all the fans cheering on… I really just wanted lớn go hide in a hole. However, after reverse sweeping the series, it was… the most exhilarating and exciting moment ever."“To pick out the toughest moment… Looking back on it now, there aren’t any. It’s natural for fans to have high expectations, & it was expected of me to live sầu with them. Although there were moments where things felt really tough… were they really? Once they all pass, they’re all good memories.One thing that I really wanted to say was that I think I did great in 2018. Although the public opinion wasn’t great, we still played in Rift Rivals, went to lớn playoffs, & even played the gauntlet. There were moments that were really tough, but the team and I always tried our best, and over time, those moments are remembered as, ‘Wow, we really tried everything and gave it our all’. Eventually, the fans recognize our efforts. Although we should be criticized for poor performances, every hardship we faced are left as good memories over time. You’ve sầu asked for the toughest moment in my tenure, but I want to lớn say that things were never tough.”Although he claims that those moments will eventually kết thúc up as good memories, the evaluation and the reaction from the poor performances are always cruel. In a tough situation where small changes in emotion can lead to a critical decline in player performance, kkOma must’ve sầu been faced with a great responsibility to provide an environment where players can focus on nothing but the game. I was curious khổng lồ see how kkOma felt when he voluntarily offered to be the ‘shield’ for the players, and what he had to say lớn coach Klặng Jeong-soo, who will be inheriting his responsibilities as the new head coach for T1.“The players are always giving it their all in every situation. Despite such efforts, as a person who also holds much responsibility, the criticism that follows bad performance is only natural. I just want lớn help the players that are working their hardest to lớn focus on nothing else but the game. That’s how I’m giving it my all. Our goal is not khổng lồ entertain, but khổng lồ fight the battles that determine wins and losses. That’s why I have sầu such responsibilities, & I feel that the blame falls on me for all the team’s losses. I was sad to see people trying to figure out whose fault it was for our loss in the semifinals at this year’s Worlds, because I know the players gave it their all.”“I have sầu nothing but respect for coach Klặng. I know the role better than anytoàn thân else, so I want lớn give hyên my full tư vấn. He’s really good at his job, so there isn’t much to lớn say lớn hlặng. Also, when it comes to lớn the game, và even outside prospects of the game, coach Kyên knows exactly what he has lớn vì, so I want khổng lồ tell the fans to have faith và support him. He’s a head coach that’s so perfect, I don’t need to say anything to lớn hyên, và in time, I know that he’ll vị well.”Towards coach Kyên, kkOma wished nothing but the best. However, it must have sầu not been easy for hyên ổn khổng lồ leave sầu a team that he was in for 7 whole years. How did he feel about making such a hard decision? And what was the final message he wanted to send to lớn T1?“After the announcement of my contract expiring, there were a lot of reactions… but most of them were telling me that I did great work. I even cried alone, because I was with the team for a long time, interacted with fans for so long, and became very cthảm bại with the management that’s been through a lot as well. I became more sad when I thought about the fans that must’ve gotten sad from my decision. I read through different reactions at night, & ended up crying a lot. Up until now, I cried when many of the SKT players went on to play in different teams, but this time, I was in tears from the fans’ reactions.”“I want to lớn tell everyone at T1 that I’m really sorry for choosing khổng lồ leave sầu the team. To the trainees, the former players, management, the coaching staff, and all the players that are choosing to stay, I want khổng lồ tell them I’m sorry và that I’ll always be rooting for them.”

Looking at kkOma, who seemed khổng lồ be very apologetic in his voice & gaze, I decided khổng lồ change the topic a little bit. As a man getting ready lớn get married before joining a new team as head coach, who was the man that was gifted with the qualities of a leader, và which virtues of a leader does he value?“Wedding preparations? (Laughter) I’ll just say that they’re going well, and that I want to thank my family và Ji-soo for helping me with so much.On what kind of a man I am… I think that I’m the type of man that women would dislượt thích. I’m a workaholic. If I can clone myself, I could split the responsibilities… but it’s hard lớn provide equal input đầu vào in both family và work. Since I’m more inclined towards work… I think that women will find me very hard khổng lồ khuyễn mãi giảm giá with. That’s why I feel very sorry for Ji-soo.”“In the kết thúc, I believe that the most important values of a leader are results. It’s easy to explain all the important values of a leader, but in the over, results are what really matters. Even if a person is blessed with much leadership, it doesn’t matter unless proven with results. And with results, I believe sầu that showing growth in a team that you’re responsible for is the most important. Being able lớn build a team that can become better is an important virtue.As the interview came cthảm bại to its over, I wanted khổng lồ ask about his future further down the road. As a person who treasures those tough moments dear khổng lồ his heart, what kind of life will kkOma live sầu after he lays rest lớn his nickname?“How satisfied am I with my achievements? I always gave sầu it my all, so although I don’t have sầu any past regrets, there’s just no way I can never achieve everything in the competitive world of the pros, where everyone’s working so hard. There definitely were tough moments, but I think I did well so far. I tried my best khổng lồ fix my mistakes, so up to this point, I think I did well on a personal màn chơi. Down the road, I just want khổng lồ be remembered as a head coach that can be trusted & works hard.”“After I become much older và when I eventually leave sầu the scene, I want to lớn become a university professor. Even though I taught many as a coach và a head coach, I still want khổng lồ teach kids. I want to work hard in teaching the kids what I know, and want to lớn become the person that can be of help khổng lồ another by being able to lớn point out areas of improvement. I received so much from the fans, so I want lớn be a person that can give sầu baông chồng.”After much talks about the past and the future, the sun was starting lớn settle outside. The questions seemed too simple lớn bottle everything about his dramatic & objective-driven life, & the time I had with hlặng seemed too short. An interview with hlặng was rare lớn begin with, but knowing that such a time will become even more rare in the future, I requested for his final words that are even more honest than usual and without regrets, for this interview.“First, I believe that I am where I am because of all the fans, so I want to lớn give them my wholehearted thanks. I’m really scared to meet a lot of people, but despite my fears, I want to lớn thank those that have sầu been by my side & listened khổng lồ me. Park “Reach” Jung-suk, caster Kim Dong-jun, caster Seong Seung Heon, & Son “Kezman” Dae-young were those that were there to listen lớn what I had to say và dealternative text with my baby-like complaints, so I especially want to extover my gratitude to those four people.I want lớn thank the foreign fans as well. One thing I vì chưng feel bad about is that because of my limited English, I wasn’t directly able to lớn directly communicate with them. Whether they’re from Korea or from overseas, in the end, I believe sầu that they’re all fans, so that’s why I want to lớn thank all the fans overseas for their support, as they are a great source of motivation. Also, my life as a married man is just on the horizon. Through thiông xã và thin, I thank Ji-soo for always believing in me, và I hope that she will continue lớn put her faith in me. To my family và my in-laws, thank you for putting your trust in someone lượt thích me.”“Lastly, there is one thing that I want khổng lồ tell the fans. If I had more time, I wanted to lớn tell you this through a lecture, but it’s something that I couldn’t bởi vì so. These next words are for all those in elementary school, khổng lồ those that are just starting to lớn be a part of our society.We live sầu in a world where we’re always competing with one another. Although it’d be great for everyone to enjoy themselves và not be stressed out, the reality of the situation is that it’s impossible to lớn bởi so. You may think that I’m in a spot in esports that everyone envies, but I was stressed out lớn the point where I started avoiding people, và had khổng lồ khuyến mãi with a lot. Despite all that, I absolutely loved watching the fans smile from watching our games, I focused on nothing but work, và always gave sầu it my all.If you have sầu a dream or a goal, I hope that you’ll invest your time, fight through the bít tất tay, and experience growth from your journey. If you want to lớn achieve something, you have sầu to lớn put up with more và work harder. Apart from expressing my gratitude, I wanted lớn say something that will help all those that live in this competitive sầu world. I’m glad that I had the chance to say all this, as it’s something that I wanted khổng lồ tell all the fans one day.”