T1’s other three-time world champion looking to make a new legacy
by Sage Datuin
South Korea, 2013 -- Bae “Bengi” Seong-woong walked into his first practice with SK Telecom T2
California, 2016 -- The setting is Staples Center in Los Angeles. Inside, 20,000 fans jump out of their seats and turn their attention to SKT T1 mid laner Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok as he celebrates his third world championship title in a moment that cemented his moniker as, “The Michael Jordan of League of Legends.” To his right, was longtime SKT T1 jungler Bengi, who had also won his third world championship as the two became the first pair in history to achieve such a feat.
Fast forward six years later and Bengi, often referred to as “The Right Hand of God,” is back with T1 as he looks to create a new legacy in not only winning his fourth world championship but his first as coach.
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Coming back to T1
Photo credit: Riot Games
Following the 2018 League of Legends season, Bengi left League of Legends to serve his two years of mandatory military service, a requirement in South Korea. Once that was finished, he was unsure of what he wanted to do moving forward into the next phase of his life.
“I was browsing options, thinking about what I wanted to do,” Bengi told Nerd Street. “I kind of wanted to come back to where I used to work. Then I got that message from T1 and began working with them immediately.”
Bengi rejoined T1 in 2020 as the head coach of T1 Challengers in the LCK Challengers League, one the level below T1’s main team in Korea’s top-tier LCK. It was not the start he had envisioned for himself moving into a head coaching role.
“I was on both the first and last place teams in Challengers Korea, which was a slump that I had to work through,” Bengi said. “I got to figure out and learn things that were weaker about myself as a head coach, so it was a learning experience.”
After ascending to a coaching role with T1 this year, he was named interim head coach in September, a month before the League of Legends World Championship.
Read more: Legends never die: Reflecting on Faker’s second Worlds final loss
Although Bengi previously served as a coach with the organization in 2018 had years of game knowledge accrued as T1’s jungler from 2012 to 2016, the adjustment back into League of Legends the last couple years has been tough for him.
It had been nearly two years since Bengi had actively dedicated his time and resources to learn more about League of Legends. He shared that 2021 was a mixture of managing players while also brushing up on his game knowledge due to being away from it all.
Overcoming roadblocks to become stronger
Photo credit: Riot Games
Bengi’s career in League of Legends is defined by the endless pendulum of praise and criticism toward his play. Similar to his longtime teammate, Faker, Bengi is a three-time world champion. However, their legacies paint two different stories. While Faker is considered the greatest League of Legends player of all time with a career that can be defined as unreachable perfection, Bengi’s years as a player are viewed in a different light.
“When I was a player, I had slumps and moments that were difficult,” Bengi shared. “It was really hard for me to overcome those hard times because it made me feel so low.”
Read more: Deft’s first world championship in his decade-long career ‘felt like a dream’
Yet, it is those trying times that Bengi highlights as his biggest periods of growth and perseverance, and he highlighted a good support system to help him overcome tough moments. Now, Bengi’s main goal is to repay that favor to his players moving forward.
“During that time, [T1 coach Kim "kkOma" Jeong-gyun] did a fantastic job of taking care of especially me,” Bengi shared. “I also had a substitute player during these low periods, which helped me grow by watching them play. These people who supported me through times helped me overcome challenges as a player. I want to help my players do the same thing moving forward.”
Photo credit: Riot Games
Although Bengi was unable to net his fourth world championship title in 2022, the T1 jungler turned head coach is looking toward the future to redefine his legacy. The only thing he wants to do is keep learning more about League of Legends.
“Back then, I believed that there wasn’t much more to learn about because the pro scene was so new,” Bengi said. “But as time passed, I realized there was so much more to learn about the game. There are so many talented players and minds that continue to innovate the macro of the game, which motivates me so much to learn. There are so many things to learn and study. I just want to continue being a student of this game.”
After a stressful past few months of adjusting to an interim head coach role, the interim title is now gone and Bengi will finally have a couple of months to rest and reset for the upcoming 2023 season.
Lead photo credit: Riot Games