Every year that head coach Yoon “Homme” Sung-young leads JD Gaming, they take one step closer to reaching their ultimate goal — lifting the Summoner’s Cup.

Homme, who’s been with the JD Gaming since LPL Summer 2018, started making headway with the team after Seo “Kanavi” Jin-hyeok joined the roster at the end of 2019.

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In LPL Spring 2020, they won their first-ever domestic title and qualified for Worlds, where they finished 5th-8th. Homme then took a break in 2021 to regain his health and start a family.

Returning in 2022, they won LPL Summer before finishing in 3rd-4th place at Worlds.

JD Gaming enter the stage at the League of Legends World Championship 2023 Knockout Stage on November 4, 2023 in Busan, South Korea
Credit: Riot Games

By making two key adjustments to their roster — the addition of Worlds 2017 champion Park “Ruler” Jae-hyuk and star mid laner Zhuo “knight” Ding — 2023 has been their best year so far.

For the first time in the organization’s history, they’ve won every title possible — LPL Spring, MSI, and LPL Summer, paving a golden road. All that’s left is Worlds.

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In an exclusive interview with ONE Esports, Homme reflects on the year and what he believes they need to do in this final stretch at Worlds 2023.

JD Gaming head coach Homme on dealing with pressure, managing internal conflicts, and what winning Worlds means to him

JD Gaming Ruler and head coach Homme backstage at MSI 2023
Credit: Riot Games

In the Swiss stage, JDG defeated Team BDS and Bilibili Gaming before besting LNG Esports 2-1 to qualify for the quarterfinals.

Against KT Rolster in the Knockout stage, they dropped the first game in the best-of-five series, which raised a few eyebrows.

“I think it was not the ideal level that I was hoping for, but still, we are all working hard. We have to communicate more,” Homme reflected on the match. “A win is a win so I’m pretty happy.”

He did not expect KT to rely heavily on meta champions, and adjusted picks and bans thereafter. “I realized they play around top-jungle 2v2 a lot, so I wanted to get rid of some of the good top and jungle picks,” said Homme.

JD Gaming at the League of Legends World Championship 2023 Knockout Features Day on October 31, 2023 in Busan, South Korea
Credit: Riot Games

They went on to win the next three games convincingly in 25 minutes, 27 minutes, and 33 minutes — which even saw a Baron-empowered minion last-hit the Nexus to send them to the semifinals.

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Up against the last-standing LCK representative T1, JDG has a tall mountain to climb. These two super teams have beef with each other: the same T1 squad knocked them out 3-1 at the Worlds 2022 semifinals last year, ending their run.

At MSI 2023, however, JDG managed to edge them out 3-2 in the upper bracket semifinals, before Bilibili Gaming finished them off in the lower bracket finals.

JD Gaming waving on stage during rehearsal at MSI 2023
Credit: Riot Games

Homme acknowledges that T1 “have great momentum at the moment,” which is part of the upcoming challenge. On top of that, he revealed that both he and the players are feeling the pressure of becoming royal roaders, especially since a lot of attention is being placed on them.

“I just want to say, as long as we do what we always do, as long as we prep hard, practice hard, and as long as we don’t make mistakes, we’ll be able to beat whoever that’s in front of us,” said Homme.

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“We don’t pay attention to how strong our opponents are, we just want to focus on our play and not make mistakes — this is our goal. So that is the mindset we have in practice and also on stage,” he added.

When mistakes are made, they lead to losses. So far, JDG has dropped two games here at Worlds, one to LNG and one to KT. It’s in those moments when Homme steps up.

JDG coach Homme: ‘I want the players to do their best in every game and every situation’

“When the players are losing on stage, coaches have a lot more precise point of view, so I think getting in the middle in that kind of situation helps a lot by bringing in fresh air,” he said.

 Coach Yoon "Homme" Sung-young of JD Gaming backstage at the League of Legends World Championship 2023 Knockout Stage on November 4, 2023 in Busan, South Korea
Credit: Riot Games

“I know how to get in the middle and perform my role as a head coach,” Homme said, on how the team found such a strong consistency this year that has translated to results. “Because all the players are really strong, in-game and in real life, so I think helping them gel in together is a really difficult task and I focus on that.”

It’s been five years since he took the first step in forging this victorious path with JDG, and a total of 11 since he ventured into League of Legends esports as top laner for MVP White, then MVP Ozone.

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“It’s been forever since I actually won. I feel this is my end goal, so I’m just doing my best, I’m just grinding until I achieve it,” said Homme on what it would mean to him to win Worlds. “I don’t know how things will go, you never know what will happen, so I’m just working hard.”

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