When Unicorns of Love took the stage for its first match of the 2021 Mid-Season Invitational against Pentanet .GG, it resembled a sight that had become quite familiar for League of Legends esports fans around the globe. For the past few seasons, UOL have dominated the League of Legends Continental League and have, for the most part, been the only team to represent the CIS region internationally in that time.
This time around, however, only four of the familiar faces decked out in pink took the stage, and joining them was new AD Carry Stanislav "Lodik" Kornelyuk. Lodik joined UOL in the last week of the 2021 LCL Spring Split after communication issues with French AD carry Antonio "Frappii" Botezatu led to the team returning to communicating in Russian, and subsequently, reclaiming its previously dominant form on its way to MSI 2021.
Lodik was instrumental in UOL reclaiming its previous form, but the AD carry had never planned for this scenario to play out. After Unicorns of Love's first win over Pentanet .GG at MSI , Lodik spoke to Inven Global about his unusual return to competitive play and the unique challenges he has been faced with after resuming his career.
"Obviously, I was a bit nervous because I had a one-year break from playing any League of Legends at all," Lodik explained after UOL's win over PGG. "Right now, I'm not in my best shape because I have to finish my studies. I was a bit nervous that I wouldn't perform well enough." Despite the nerves, Lodik played his part and scaled up on Kai'Sa in the side lanes to become a teamfight threat while Unicorns of Love top laner Vladislav "BOSS" Fomin ran the show from the opposite side lane.
It was Lodik's first international game since competing at the 2018 World Championship as a member of Gambit Esports, and a year and a half later, Lodik announced that he would be leaving Gambit and taking a break from competitive play to focus on his education. When asked what led him to return to competition, Lodik broke into laughter.
"I had no intentions of returning to competitive play around this time," Lodik admitted. "I wanted to come back to play competitively in the summer split when I would be free, because right now, I'm quite busy." Lodik is currently still focusing on his studies while playing competitively on UOL, and has a Bachelor's thesis due at the end of this week during MSI.
As one might expect, balancing an esports career and the tail end of a college education is no easy task, and to maintain consistency in both areas, Lodik has quite a rigorous schedule: "I have to wake up at 6am, write my thesis for four hours, then I go into solo queue and then scrims. After scrims I play one or two more games of solo queue, then I go to sleep and wake up at six again."
Within a few days, Lodik will be able to focus solely on the competition, but even without factoring in the scholarly balancing act, he has had little opportunity to work off any potential rust from his year-long competitive break. The Russian sharpshooter only had a week of play before the post-season, and within the first two months of resuming his professional career, has found himself on the international stage.
Fortunately for Lodik, he's uniquely familiar with the situation."I joined Gambit in the same way," he said, laughing. "It's unusual, but it's quite normal to me."
While he's acclimating well, Lodik has acknowledged that he will need some time to return to his prime form, but that's led him to focus on Unicorns of Love's success as a team.
"From my perspective, if you come to an international stage, no matter what region you're from, you should have only one goal: compete with the best and try to beat them," Lodik said. "I'm not in my best shape, so I'm not looking to test my limits against the star ADCs or something. My main goal is to perform better to help our team achieve our goal."