Last weekend, 100 Thieves swept Team Liquid in the grand finals of the 2021 LCS Summer Split. It was the first championship for the organization, as well as the first championship in North America for top laner Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho.
Five years ago, Ssumday came to the LCS and played as one of the best top laners ever in the history of the league. But although he carried the reputation of an ace top laner, the championship title always seemed to slip through his fingers.
Having gone through a lot in his LCS days, Ssumday fought back tears in the post-game interview. “I showed my everything,” he said, but there was much more he wanted to say so we sat down with the newly-crowned LCS champion.
The last time I interviewed you, you said that you wanted to put up that 100 Thieves banner in the LCS studio. You finally did. Congratulations!
[Laughs] Thank you!
This is your first LCS championship after five years playing in NA. How does it feel?
I’ve been on this team for a long time, and I’ve been doing whatever I could in my position. I’m very satisfied with this season’s results because it feels that all my past efforts have finally paid off.
Among the active LCS players, you hold the longest tenure with a single team. You must be very attached to the team now.
I’ve been on this team for a long time, and there are a lot of staff members I’ve worked with. There have been many players as well. That came to mind when we won, so I was fighting back tears when I was getting interviewed.
I watched the LCK finals — Khan said that he nearly shed tears, but he’ll be crying after taking the last step. I thought I wouldn’t cry either, but as I stepped forward for the interview, I remembered the difficult times and I had to cry.
As you said, there were a lot of difficult times during your NA days. Your team has been disbanded or has had bad results, and you’ve been to the Academy. You suffered through a lot. When were the hardest times for you?
It’s difficult to just choose one. When I first came to the US, it was hard to adapt to the culture and language. Then, when I felt I had adapted, my team wasn’t playing as well. There were so many member changes too, so it was hard to focus on just the game. I’ve been here a long time, so there were a lot of difficult moments.
Who was the happiest after you won the championship? How did they react?
Our CEO, Nadeshot, was thrilled. He is a very competitive person, so I think he really wanted that championship. I’m happy that I was able to give that to him. We opened champagne together at the championship party. [laughs]
It seems Nadeshot really treasures you. What’s so good about 100 Thieves?
100 Thieves really cares a lot about their players. They created an environment where we could concentrate on the game. It’s a family-like environment, so it’s very comfortable. It could just be the NA culture, but I’ve been on this team for a long time. That probably says it all.
Also, the apparels are awesome. [laughs] Some people tease us by saying that 100 Thieves isn’t an esports team, that it’s a clothing brand. The only reason they say that is because the apparels are so awesome.
You met Team Liquid twice in the playoffs. How was the finals different from the first time?
Our individual conditions were different and we changed a lot in-game-wise as well. There were several big matches packed in one week, but all we were able to scrim were LATAM teams or Academy teams. I didn’t think there would be a big difference practicing like that for a week, but the fact that we were able to absorb strategies by watching VODs of other regions was the biggest difference.
Freeze said multiple times that he was shocked seeing you guys improve so fast.
Freeze has a lot of ideas regarding macro and there are things he wants us to do, especially Abbedagge and me, so we talk a lot. During this week, the scrims didn’t go as usual, so we weren’t able to try what we had learned from VODs in actual games as much. We had to apply whatever we had learned directly into the finals against Team Liquid — and it worked! We were actually able to see them frustrated, not knowing how to react. Once we saw that, we got more confident. Team Liquid probably would have felt that they were facing two different teams.
Do you think having to play so many important matches in a short period of time affected your performance?
The experience we gain by going through such important matches is huge. I believe it played a major part in our improvement.
What do you think was the biggest reason behind the 100 Thieves championship run?
It’s a result of everyone’s effort. The players and coaching staff altogether were ready to improve and worked hard to do so. We believed that we could do it so we trusted each other, even when we fell to the loser’s bracket.
There must be people you’re thankful for, how about mentioning all of them here?
First, I’d like to thank Blake and Jackson for giving me an offer in the first place. Also, I’m grateful for Nadeshot, a great leader and boss, who always supports us in any situation. John Robinson, COO, I’ve been with him since 100 Thieves first started, so he treasures me a lot as well. I really love all these guys and I’m very thankful.
Jason, Jacob, and Papasmithy, who always take care of us. Our operations manager Celina, Ryan, and mental coach Edward too. Edward is with our Valorant team at the moment, so he’s in Berlin, but we always speak at least once a week. He’s a big help to me.
Obviously, my current teammates and coaching staff. We were able to do this because everyone worked so hard. I also want to thank my old teammates and coaching staff as well. A few years ago, there were chances when we could have won the trophy. It’s unfortunate that we weren’t able to, but it seems they’re all doing well right now too. [laughs]
It was a bit hard for me to feel that I have fans in NA compared to when I was in Korea. There were a few times that I felt like I’m a stranger in a foreign country, but after winning the championship and seeing all these people congratulating me, I felt that I do have plenty of fans. Thank you to all those who cheer for me.
Last but not least, I want to thank my dad and family who always support me and watch my games from all the way around the world.
You’ll be headed to Worlds now. Being the first seed team would be quite a positive factor for you guys.
Yeah, being the first seed is pretty good for us. You know, teams usually don’t scrim against teams in the same group. That means we’ll be able to scrim with all the first seed teams from around the world. In my opinion, the first seed teams are quite far ahead of the second and third seed teams from their respective regions.
When teams go to the region where Worlds is held, they kind of get “localized”. If we practice there and get pounded by good players, [laughs] we might improve so that we’re as good as them.
With 100 Thieves’ shocking ability to improve, you might even jump over those best teams.
[laughs] Of course, I don’t think we’d be able to beat them immediately, but if we experience them and improve, we just might be able to.
Reapered always seems so confident. He was positive about getting through the group stage.
We haven’t scrimmed against the world’s best teams yet, but I guess we’d be the best among the NA teams, right? [laughs]
Looking back at the LCK players from your time there, not that many are left and only a few reached Worlds this year — Bdd, Ruler, Faker, and Ghost. Are there any players that you are close with?
Since I’m quite introverted, I wasn’t that close with players from other teams. There is Stardust, though, who is serving as interim head coach for T1. He used to be in 100 Thieves. We spoke with each other yesterday — 100 Thieves won the championship but he slipped. He was a bit sad about that.
Are there any teams or players that you’d like to meet at Worlds?
I want to meet the favorites — FunPlus Phoenix, MAD Lions, and DWG KIA. I do want to meet them, but I want to meet them later in the tournament. It would be rather uncomfortable to meet them early. [laughs] Among the top laners there, Nuguri, Armut, and Khan are all very unique, so it’ll be fun to face them.
You said you watched VODs from other regions’ finals. Which team looks the strongest?
I think FPX looks the strongest. They don’t hesitate when they play and they’re fearless. Whether it’s a good or a bad angle, they make use of it. I think that’s what makes them so strong.
How do you think the NA teams will do at Worlds?
I believe this year, NA will be more competitive than before. I think it’ll be fun if NA teams meet each other in the knockout stage. Maybe in the quarterfinals, or even the semifinals. [laughs] If we do, at least one team would make it to the finals, right? That’s some hopeful thinking. [laughs]
There are so many people that are happy for your championship this season. Did you see the Ssumday Appreciation Thread on Reddit? How about a word to your fans?
I’m not that active on Twitter or social media and I don’t talk that much. Sometimes, I used to get quite depressed when we’d lose games, get eliminated, or when we’d just not do as well. It felt as if my hard work wasn’t paying off. But even then, I always did my best to prove my ability. I’m extremely happy that there are fans that recognize my hard work and support me.
Although I did win the championship, it’s not over. What we need to do is prove that we could do well internationally too. I’m so thankful to all the fans that followed me up to this point. I’m going to continue to move forward, so I hope you all keep cheering me on.
Thank you, and congratulations again on the championship! I’ll hope to see you again in a winning post-match interview at Worlds!