The 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games is a sore spot in Korean esports history. South Korea, the reigning League of Legends (LoL) champions at the time, went undefeated in the group stage before falling to China 1-3 in the final. A blow from an opponent they had beaten once in the group stage. The loss was also bitter in terms of content, as the bottom lane completely collapsed. In the end, Korea only managed to reach the quarterfinals of the World Championship (Rold Cup) in Korea that fall, losing the title to China (Invictus Gaming). It seemed like the end of Korea’s era of winning five consecutive Rold Cups.안전놀이터
Five years have passed since then. Five years later, League of Legends has become an official part of the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games. For South Korea, it’s a chance to redeem themselves as the inaugural champions. At the center of the team is captain Lee “Faker” Sang-hyuk (27-T1). After failing to prevent defeat in Jakarta, he now travels to Hangzhou Gorge alongside Choi “Zeus” Woo-je (T1), Seo “Canavi” Jin-hyeok (Jingdong Gaming), Jeong “Chobi” Jung-hoon (Genji), Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk (Jingdong Gaming) and Ryu “Keria” Min-seok (T1).
This will be Lee’s second time wearing a taegeuk, following Park’s Jakarta victory. This is remarkable given the physiology of esports, where athletes are notoriously short-lived and maintaining their peak performance is even more difficult. But given Faker’s reputation, it seems like a no-brainer. In fact, when Lee Sang-hyuk went down with a wrist injury this season, his team, T-one, struggled mightily, going 1-7 in a month. Before he was sidelined, the team was 6-2.
Of course, the gold medal hunt is not easy. First of all, China’s level has improved a lot, especially since they started training early to win this tournament in Anbang. The fans in Anbang are expected to cheer them on. Moreover, Lee Sang-hyuk has been out with a wrist injury. Usually known for his wide range of champions (in-game characters), he had a relatively narrow selection for the LCK Finals. At his departure ceremony on the 28th of last month, Lee said, “I wasn’t able to practice properly during my injury. I think it had a lot to do with not being able to study various champions.”
‘Form is temporary, but class is eternal’. Fortunately, Lee’s form has been gradually improving. He recently performed well in an individual ranked game and seems to have regained his championship form. “I’ve had a lot of treatment on my wrist, so it doesn’t affect my game,” he said. He’ll also have back-to-back trials against Vietnam (Nov. 11) and Chinese Taipei (Dec. 12), so he’ll be able to get as fit as possible before flying to Hangzhou.
Some are also interested in whether he will be named a starter. The League of Legends has a total of five players, one for each of the five positions. Two midfielders, Lee Sang-hyuk and Jeong Ji-hoon, were selected. Jeong played a key role in the team’s recent victory over Lee Sang-hyuk’s T-one in the domestic tournament to secure their third straight title. However, the two players are determined to work in synergy for the gold medal. “It’s actually positive to have two players in the midfield,” said Lee, “and we can learn from each other.” “It’s not a competition, it’s a collaboration,” he said.
The mercenary skills of national team coach Kim Jung-gyun are expected to make Lee Sang-hyuk’s presence shine even brighter. Kim, who also discovered Lee Sang-hyuk in his previous roles as T-one coach (2012-2017) and head coach (2017-2019), is a strategist who has always been known to play surprise cards in addition to his regular five-man lineup. Since he doesn’t know who will be on the ice on any given day, opponents will have to prepare for two of the best midfielders in the world. “They’re two of the best midfielders in the world,” Kim said, “and I’ve played a lot of sixes in the past. (“I’ve used a lot of sixth men in the past,” Kim said.
“Since I’m playing for the national team, I feel a sense of mission,” said Lee. “I’m determined to win this year,” he said. The name “Lee Sang-hyuk” has already been etched into the history of esports like a star in the night sky, and the eyes of the world’s esports fans are on the Asian Games in Hangzhou.