Like it or not, Kim 'Geguri' Se-yeon remains a standard-bearer

Kim "Geguri" Se-yeon's first appearance at the Blizzard Arena was during her team's Overwatch League game against London Spitfire in Burbank, California. Sean Morrison for ESPN

She was exhausted, and she was quiet. She kept answers short. Her eyes drooped.

Kim "Geguri" Se-yeon, a soft-spoken 18-year-old fighting jet lag and a language barrier, crept through her first U.S. interview as a member of the Shanghai Dragons and the first woman in the Overwatch League.

But she was present, and that in and of itself was significant.

"I'm finally here," she said through a translator on Friday.

Her team, still without a win in the Overwatch League, was in the midst of a 4-0 loss to the London Spitfire. Despite the lengthy trip from South Korea to Los Angeles and then the studio in Burbank, California, Geguri showed up at Blizzard Arena to support the Dragons that day.

She won't debut until Stage 3, but being in the arena was important to her and makes a difference in a league that, until Shanghai signed her in mid-February, did not have a female player.

To Geguri, that's an uncomfortable truth.

She's a reluctant hero in this league and has been since she debuted in 2016, with later-disproved accusations of cheating making her one of the most famous Overwatch players in the world. She deflected questions about being the face of women in the game well before joining the ROX Orcas in Overwatch APEX, and then Shanghai, and then, on Friday, when she found herself again addressing the narrative of being a standard-bearer for women not only in Overwatch but in the world of esports.

"Being the icon or being looked up to because I'm female -- I'm grateful," she said of her female fans, "but I don't really have any thoughts about it. That's not how I want to be known."

Her first appearance, presumably in the first series of Stage 3 when Shanghai plays the Dallas Fuel at 7 p.m. ET on April 4, will be the first of many matches placed under the microscope.

This is an 18-year-old thrust into an unenviable position. In every interview, every article, every bit of exposure she gets from here on out, she will be tied to a title: first woman in the Overwatch League. That might be unfair to Geguri, but in esports, a predominately male space, she is both an outlier and an example. In the end, few can decide how their story is told.

"I feel immense pressure," she said. "It's my understanding that the other players and I were brought onto this team so the team could improve and actually win. If we don't, I feel like there is going to be a lot of backlash that might come from that.

"Even though it's going to be my first game, I'm going to treat it like my last."