KT Coach Lee Ji Hoon, "This is the most moving moment of my life"
Things can't get better than this. In Rounds 1 and 2, KT had even fallen lower than Airforce Ace to the lowly rank of 10. Though KT was able to secure first place in Winners League, during rounds 5 and 6 that returned to the proleague system, KT again plunged and went through a difficult time. As they played through the Round of 6 playoffs, KT players lost strength, and there were talks as to whether they would be able to even play the finals properly.
After overcoming all of these obstacles, KT Rolster's coach Lee Ji Hoon couldn't help but cry. All the players also cried. Overcoming their difficult schedule, Coach Lee Ji Hoon conducted this interview with a voice that was thick with emotion.
Q You’ve won the grand finals for the second time in a row. How do you feel?
A It was so moving – I started tearing on the bench. All the hard times we went through with the players and coaching staff started playing before my eyes. We practiced hard without resting a single day since the beginning of July, and I was so thankful to the players who kept this practice up resolutely. Even when we were down, the players didn’t lose their composure and were able to come back, ultimately helping us win. This was the most moving moment of my 32 years of life.
Q You broke a whole list of jinxes to gain this victory. You probably struggled a lot thinking about the different ‘jinxes’ as you prepared for the finals match.
A There were so many jinxes against us. Starting with the Reach jinx to the wedding jinx to the jinx of having won last season’s grand finals, it was a difficult situation but as I’ve lived with Flash, one thing I’ve learned is that jinxes are there to be broken. Because of Flash I stopped worrying about all the jinxes related to the players. However, I am sorry to my fiancé that during the pre-game interviews, in my effort to not talk about the wedding at all, I wasn’t able to give much of an answer to Jun Yong Joon caster’s question (laughs). I hope that by presenting the trophy to her she will be able to forgive me with a big heart (laughs).
Q Any words to say for your fiancé who’s been preparing the wedding by herself?
A I’m not sure what to say to someone who is about to be my wife (laughs). Women have said that preparing for a wedding is extremely difficult, but because my fiancé is incredibly understanding I was able to prepare for the grand finals relatively comfortably. But I didn’t completely leave her alone in the preparations (laughs). As I prepared for the wedding the coaches helped out a lot, and I think it’s because of them that both the wedding and the matches played out so well.
Q The ceremony you guys showed was great. It was brave that you guys chose to do it even when you were down.
A I feel like recently with KT forfeiting the STX cup along with other things, we’ve let down people a lot. It was my first time doing a ceremony as a coach, and though honestly it was a bit embarrassing, I thought that if I did a ceremony I would be able to lift the players’ spirits up. Though it truly was a hair-raisingly cheesy ceremony, I’m glad that the fans seemed to like it.
Q The line-up today was interesting. You played four zergs in the beginning – it almost seemed like a gamble.
A When we started the Round of 6 playoffs, there were many teams that thought we would immediately drop out, and it was true that we were up against SK Telecom’s strong power at the time. However, throughout the post-season we never failed to keep investing in our zerg players and I was confident that our four zergs would at least produce 2 wins, 2 losses. Though it’s true that it actually became 1 win 3 losses making the situation shaky, I believed that Flash and Stats would be able to help us come back. Though recently BeSt has won a lot against Flash, I think this actually motivated Flash to play even better and helped him win today. Ultimately, I think we were able to win because the coaching staff continued to believe in the players, and the players continued to believe in themselves.
Q After this win, how do you think annual salaries will increase?
A It’s true that after last year’s win, our annual salaries did increase a lot. But the important thing was that if we won this time, the prize money would be larger than last time, plus we would be guaranteed a trip overseas (laughs). On top of that, the executives held even higher expectations considering we climbed up from the bottom this time. I do think that everyone will receive nice salaries (laughs).
Q The finals match was pushed back two weeks, but it seemed this had a positive effect for KT.
A Honestly, we were confident in Shanghai too. Though power-wise it’s true SK Telecom was over us at the time, I thought we could ride the atmosphere we were on and win the whole thing. People were saying that because our practice time increased, it could be an advantage to us but truthfully, it was so difficult that we just wanted to get the games over with. I’m sure SK Telecom felt the same way about that. However, the extra time did give us time to come up with more builds which I think lead to us being able to play well today.
Q Any last words you want to say?
A I want to say thank you to the executives at KT who gave us so much help to get here. I also want to say thank you to the coaching staff who listened to me so well despite the fact that I’m so young. I’m also so thankful to the players who listened so well through the adverse circumstances. I’m getting married tomorrow, and words can’t even begin to express how thankful I am to the players for giving me such an unforgettable gift… it’s to the point of tears. I don’t even know what to say thank you for. I’m just so thankful.
KT players, "As soon as we won, the tears came"
All the players erupted into tears. The emotion that was displayed today surpassed the emotions shown after KT won their first victory last year. In the beginning of the season, KT suffered as they made it seem questionable that they were last season's winners by showing lackluster performance, and it seemed these hard times played through the players' eyes as they were momentarily shocked.
These are the KT Rolster players who overcame all adversity to get here. After their victory and they were able to talk, we were able to hold an interview with them where they did not stop smiling for a second.
Q You guys won!.
A Reach= This is my first time doing this kind of interview (laughs). I’ve been a progamer for 11 years and done a countless number of interviews but it’s my first time doing an interview after our team has won the grand finals (laughs). Since KTF days to now, at KT, my biggest wish was to win the grand finals with our team, and I thought to myself if we could just do that there’s nothing I could want more, and now that we’ve won, all I can think about is the people that were once in my position. Of those people, it is a bit regretful that I’m the only one that is left, but I think those people who also once really wanted to win would really be moved watching this.
Flash=It’s not just me, but the executives, coaching staff, and all the players – we all worked so hard to get here, that as soon as we won I couldn’t help but feel the tears come. Because this is a victory that we’re all sharing together, I don’t think it can get much happier than this.
HoeJJa=Last year, though I was happy we won, because I personally lost I wasn’t completely happy. But today, because I won and my team also won, I truly feel things can’t get better than this. I’m so happy.
Stats=I want to say thank you to all the colleagues who struggled along with us. I’m so happy right now (laughs).
Q It seems that the 2nd place jinx was proved to be actually due to YellOw, not Reach.
A Reach=The 2nd place jinx started while YellOw hyung and I stood on the same stage, and I really hoped that we could end it together as well but because that didn’t happen, I’m really sad. To be honest none of that is important and I’m just glad we were able to prove that the KT 2nd place jinx was due to YellOw hyung not me (laughs). I’m sure YellOw hyung will watch this stage and also feel very regretful.
Q You’re undergoing surgery for your arm soon.
A Flash=I’ve gone through years of experience now so if I just prepare for my games with an acute focus, I think it will even be possible for me to win the OSL. Before I undergo surgery, I’ll make sure I prepare everything else perfectly so that I can have a clean surgery with no baggage afterward.
Q We heard your goal for this year was to earn twice your annual salary.
A Stats=Thinking about that already makes me happy haha. My goal was originally twice my salary, but thinking about how hard I’ve worked since the round of 6 playoffs, I want to increase that by 3 or 4 times and earn hundreds of millions of won (won = korean currency).
Q It seems you guys haven’t forgotten about Violet.
A Flash=I really hope Violet hyung will recover even a day sooner. Though he isn’t physically here with us right now, I really want to call Violet hyung and share this happiness with him. As we went through this season, I was able to feel what a huge presence Violet hyung has on our team.
Q It seems you’ve paid off all your debt (pre-finals he gave an interview explaining he felt he owed KT a lot for giving him a lot of chances)
A HoeJJa=I don’t completely comfortable because I still feel I owe a lot more, but coach says I’ve repaid KT back 100% so it’s a relief (laughs). But still, I feel I’ll have to perform well next season as well before I start feeling comfortable (laughs).
Congratulations to KT. My heart is warm today <3