Defined by his quirky nature, Kim "Olleh" Joo-Sung has seen consistent success in the North American League Championship Series. Despite missing the playoffs in Spring 2017 to kick off his LCS career, Olleh is now a three-time NA finalist. Not only is he set to face off against Cloud9 this Sunday at the Oracle Arena in Oakland in yet another final, Olleh will also be attending his second straight World Championship after Team Liquid secured a berth in its semifinal win against 100 Thieves last weekend.
Despite an impressive resume, Olleh's performance during the Summer Split and at the Mid-Season Invitational resulted in heavy criticism. Still, Team Liquid continues to trust in Olleh -- and he continues to prove himself as the team's sturdy shield, only getting stronger as they come together.
"We are all friends," Olleh said. "Sometimes we make jokes like we're not friends, like 'Ah you're so bad.' Usually, after we finish scrims and everyone's tired, we all just fade away. We still talk a lot."
For Olleh, no bond has been as important as his relationship with bot lane partner Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng.
"When we went to [the NA LCS final] and MSI, he had experience," Olleh explained. "He just talked a lot about how we have to do things. I learned a lot from all his words."
Olleh is no newcomer to the scene, but given his relative anonymity upon arriving in North America last year, being on a team with Doublelift was a world of change. Though Team Liquid featured two of Olleh's former teammates from Immortals -- Jake "Xmithie" Puchero and Eugene "Pobelter" Park -- Doublelift made it feel like a brand new team for Olleh to find himself.
"Last year, I was talking to Cody and teaching him," he said of his former carry partner. "[Doublelift] and I sometimes discuss, but sometimes I just listen to his words and get advice. It's absolutely different from then."
Team Liquid finished in its practically destined fourth place spot during the Spring Split, but took the finals win against 100 Thieves convincingly. Olleh proved that he was still a star, but at the Mid-Season Invitational, the public perception began to shift. Team Liquid failed to pick up a win in its first few games at the event -- and as a result, Olleh decided to bench himself from play, shocking casters and fans alike.
It sounded preposterous at the time, but this was actually quite common for Team Liquid in practice. The team often subbed in Joseph "Joey" Haslemann during scrims when Olleh needed time to step back and gain perspective.
"I was too tunneled in game," he said. "After we finished the first two games, I realized that maybe I was nervous on stage or my mentality was streaky. When we played the game, I really wasn't looking at the game as a whole."
People considered Olleh's benching a sign of mental weakness, but he and Team Liquid came back stronger than ever, nearly making the bracket stage despite their disastrous start. Olleh's decision to sit out a game drew the ire of Western fans, but brought stability back to the team. At the time, he selflessly shielded his team by taking on the brunt of criticism. Today, he continues to do so.
"After day two, we started winning because I started playing what our coach wanted. That was really important for me because if I just kept playing, I would have just played for myself."
Moving forward, Olleh is committed to being even stronger for his teammates on Team Liquid. Like the support champion Braum, he wants to be strong and confident -- an Unbreakable shield.
"I'm trying to be more confident," he explained. "In Spring, I was kind of emotional. Now, I just don't care. I talk with our mental coach and learned a lot from them."
He gives a lot of the credit to his bot lane partner, Doublelift.
"It's really good to work with Peter. He is a really confident guy so he always says things directly. I learned that I have to be really confident and strong to protect my team or my people. I want to stand in front of them and say 'I'll protect you guys.' It's not just in game. I'm evolving as a person, I think."
Olleh wants to shield those important to him and he'll have another chance to do so again this weekend against a surging Cloud9. Team Liquid were convincing against 100 Thieves and C9 looked strong against Team SoloMid, but Olleh remains positive.
"I can't be cocky, but I have confidence because our team has worked really hard," he said. "Last split, we were fourth in regular season, but this time we were No. 1. I think [winning this time] will be easier than before."