There's nothing quite like the word "last". A "last chance" feels like desperation after doing everything possible but also a relief for finishing a long journey. DWG KIA's top laner, Kim "Khan" Dong-ha, announced that 2021 would be his last season competing as a pro gamer.
Although many pro players forlornly leave the scene with declining performance, Khan is challenging for the best achievement a pro player can ever achieve. "I almost shed tears," Khan said after winning his last LCK Championship, which reflected his resolution for his final moments as a pro gamer.
But in Khan's own words, "it isn't any more special just because it's last." Recalling his interview after LCK finals, he said, "it was because makeup powders went into my eyes," trying not to give any special meaning to the Championship title. His thoughts are the same about the upcoming World Championship, which will be his last chance to end his career on a championship-winning note. But even then, Khan is facing the end calmly.
"It isn't any more special because it's the last. I don't think it's necessary to get more attention because someone's leaving. If someone leaves, there is someone else who comes. When I leave, a new player will appear. Isn't there a saying that for every departure there's a return, and for every new relationship there's a breakup? I think that's fate and the right thing to do."
Khan might've reached enlightenment through his long pro gamer career, because he had a bird's eye view of competing for — and winning — titles. He had missed the last championship at MSI 2021, but recovered to win LCK Summer, just in time for the upcoming Worlds 2021. Yet, even hot off his victory, Khan was honest, rather than reassuring about his chances of winning Worlds.
"I think the road to winning the Championship is 70% luck and 30% skill. I also believe that God helped with the LCK championship. Although I did my best, I did not expect this result because of a few downfalls during the Summer Split. Many factors — like teammate's skills, luck, meta, and daily conditions — had to come together to achieve this result.
"So far, I haven't been able to win any international competition. There were matches we would have won if I had played well, but there were also results that were out of my hands. Every time we'd compete in an international tournament, I used to think we could win. In the past, there was a lot of unfounded confidence in that regard. Now, there is evidence that I can do it, but the confidence is not as great as before."
The only thing Khan has ever trusted was his team. Trust others is how he won LCK titles with DragonX, SK Telecom T1, and DWG KIA. He is now repaying the latter, the team that's with him on his final journey as a pro gamer.
"I've always got nervous whenever I entered a new game, but each time, my teammates relieved a lot of the tension. Every game I've played since 2017, I've started nervously. I've been able to win because I played with great teammates. I want to thank each one I've met so far, but especially DWG KIA, who've put in even more effort because it's my last LCK Championship and Worlds. I appreciate it even more.
"I tried my best to get along with the team as soon as possible. There were many changes after Daeny joined as an analyst during the Summer Split. The feedback style was very different from what I've experienced. The players who were in DAMON Gaming last year were already used to the feedback style, but I had to catch up in a short amount of time."
A pro gamer's life of earning championship titles alongside great teammates sounds fascinating, but there are always parts of players' personal lives that others are unaware of. As recently as last year, Khan thought about retiring — even without the looming military service — and recalled to Inven some hidden stories behind his glorious career.
"I've been sprinting for the past seven-eight years. I think it's time to transition into a marathon life now. I want to search for happiness. Waking up every morning at 10 to repeatedly grind solo queue, scrims, and tournament games has been exhausting. I've definitely gained a lot as a long-time pro gamer, but there have been losses, too. I don't think I am in good shape, both mentally and physically. I need time to search for the things I lost.
"I haven't yet decided what to do after retirement. First of all, I have never worked out in my life. I will start working out after retirement because my body is not in good shape. I don't think I will stream regularly, just from time to time, when I don't have anything else to do."
Although Khan was exhausted both mentally and physically, his attitude towards Worlds showed professionalism.
"I don't think I can say whether I will do well or not in the upcoming Worlds. However, I will keep my promise to do my best. Finishing as the runner-up at MSI was disappointing. The amount of practice I had when preparing for MSI was overwhelming compared to any other player in any other league. And if my skills were only good enough to be a runner-up at MSI, now, I will try hard to train them to win Worlds."