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Crown on SSG’s success: “I’ve cried a lot during 2016, even very recently.”

Samsung Galaxy heads to the quarterfinals of the League of Legends World Championship as the No. 1 seed from Group D and plays Thursday. Slingshot’s Andrew Kim talked to Lee “Crown” Min-Ho (in Korean and translated to English) about making it out of groups, the major success of 2016 and his relationship with coach Choi Woo-Beom.

Andrew Kim: You guys made it out of groups as the No. 1 seed and winning all of your games in Week 2. Was there a mentality shift at all? How did you enter Week 2?

Lee “Crown” Min-Ho: Since you play all three of your games in (one day) in Week 2, we did feel some pressure and thought that if we lost here it’d be all over. If we win, then we win, and if we lose, there’s nothing we can do about it, so we just thought we should make as little mistakes and play with no regrets afterwards, and we made little mistakes which led to our victory.

AK: Earlier in the live interview, you attributed Samsung’s victory to the lack of a Viktor ban. Was that sort of mind game to get it banned?

LMH: No, I was just being honest. I thought before that Viktor would probably get banned from Week 2, which is why I said that.

AK: Why do you think he wasn’t banned?

LMH: I don’t know. I think they might have had a comp in mind or wanted to pick him first.

AK: This marks your first worlds tournament, and yet you’re making it to quarterfinals. Did you expect such success this early?

LMH: No, I was personally looking to make it to worlds next year. I was more concentrated on beating KT (in the gauntlet) and kept telling myself that I have to win against them, but then I made it here completely unexpectedly. I also thought if I really deserved to be in this spot, but now I am, and I have nothing I can do other than perform well and go as far as I can.

AK: 2016’s worlds seems to be full of unexpected turn of events. What was the biggest shock for you?

LMH: I’ve cried a lot during 2016, even very recently. I didn’t expect myself to cry this much honestly. Even during the regular season I cried a lot. I was determined to beat KT after crying, so I clenched my teeth, and it’s still kind of weird to be here.

AK: You seem to have a very close relationship with the head coach Choi Woo-Beom. Why do you think you have such a close relationship?

LMH: I don’t exactly know yet but I think we just work well together as we work together. Since I have a very shaky mentality, I think it’s also because he’s good with catching that and helping me.

AK: You were a trainee for StarCraft before you became a pro in League of Legends. What’s the biggest difference in your opinion?

LMH: Starcraft is a 1-on-1 game, so as long as you work hard and improve yourself, you can make things happen. But League is a 5-on-5 game, which means you need good communication with your team. There are a lot of differences.

AK: How did it feel when you made it to the worlds stage? Were you concerned at all?

LMH: I think I started to be concerned after arriving here. Before, when I was in Korea, it still didn’t quite sink in. After I got on the plane and arrived, I started to be worried. I don’t know much about the other lanes, but the mid lane has a lot of international talent, so I started to think if I could even play well against such players, what would happen if I make a mistake on such a stage, stuff like that. Because of that I even got into a slump enough that the practice games weren’t looking good yesterday. I think we’ll do well going orward with today’s results though.

AK: Coming from a foreign region you’re often at risk of sickness or fatigue due to time zone shifts. Were you feeling ok during the group stages?

LMH: At first I had a hard time getting used to the time zone. I sleep well now, but I keep having dreams so I feel tired when I wake up. I also had signs of a cold but I felt better after taking some medicine and working through it a day.

AK: Is there a foreign team you want to face in the tournament?

LMH: I don’t have any teams like that yet, since I just focus on who I have in front of me. No matter who we play against, we’re planning to work hard and enjoy the games.

AK: Ambition mentioned in another interview that he prefers to go for comfort picks in best of ones. Does the rest of the team also subscribe to this?

LMH: I think it’s mostly because the meta changes a lot from game to game

AK: You’re well known in Korea as a hard worker. What motivates you to practice to much as a professional to this extent?

LMH: Being a pro gamer was my first dream. I was just living ordinarily and playing but I started to think that I wanted to succeed in pro gaming and be acknowledged by people. That’s how I started Starcraft and started my life in a gaming house. During my time there I saw many success stories and some failures and thought that I had a chance of making it. I generally think that I need to just go for it regardless of the possibility of failure, so I just kept telling myself that I should think and decide things after doing it.

Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games