kennyS: "Getting back to competitive CS is definitely my focus now"
The legendary AWPer is certain about his goals for 2022.
The five-time Top 20 player of the year with 10 MVP medals to his name and a Major win on record took on the role of "stand-in AWPer" at IEM Winter, where G2 have reached the semi-finals and are looking like title challengers despite playing without their in-game leader Nemanja "nexa" Isaković.
kennyS spoke about his return to competition, the joy LANs bring, and his adaptation to tier 1 in his first interview for HLTV.org since his benching in March. Talking about his future, the 26-year-old made it clear that he isn't interested in a move to VALORANT, and is instead focusing on a return to competitive Counter-Strike.
"Even though it's a tough road considering the situation in the scene, I feel ready to prove my worth again," kennyS says at the end of the interview, leading up to the semi-final clash with NIP on Saturday.
To the jubilation of your many fans, kennyS is back on the server! What was your first reaction to being called up to play for G2 again?
I was really happy! And I still am, I'm grateful to have had this opportunity, I missed the LANs so much, seeing everyone again makes me so happy. I'm like a kid going to his first LAN again. I just want to give my best and help the team as much as I can right now.
Tell me about the lead-up to the event - how did you prepare, individually and with the team, for IEM Winter?
Well I decided to stick to CS a few days before knowing I would play IEM Winter with the team. I started playing a lot again but once I knew about it and I suddenly became overloaded by the amount of work I had to do, so I just did as much as I could while taking care of not exhausting myself too quickly either.
I've put individual hours into the game in order to remove the rust out of me but I also spent a lot of time alone on a server to make sure my knowledge and the utilities were on point.
The first practices were difficult but I felt I improved quickly. I also had to catch up with all the strats. In total, we must have 10 days of preparation and the mappool isn’t the same as when I left the scene, so it was quite a challenge but I am happy about the work I did so far.
Not only is this your first competitive event in about nine months, but it is also the first LAN you have played since IEM Katowice in 2020. What is it like to be back on LAN after a long period of online play?
It feels just amazing! Like many players, I've been heavily impacted by the online season. LANs remind me how much I enjoy playing competitive CS… the team environment is also really good and it's easier for me to get back into those conditions. The team reached a new peak and everyone is focused and positive! I'm just excited to play every game, and it would be amazing to still compete on Sunday!
So far at IEM Winter you have a below-average 0.96 rating, but top the charts in terms of flash assists with 0.13 per round. Is setting up the team your primary goal at the event?
As I said, the team is in great shape and I don’t want to change that at all! It [setting up the team] isn't necessarily a goal, the main goal was to be on point on those things (knowledge, utilities, tactics…) in order to not have extra pressure and thinking while playing.
I knew it'd be difficult anyways to come back to a tier 1 level without playing for so long but I also knew that being on point on those things would help me focus more on other aspects. So yes, once again, keeping the team happy and positive is also really important for me, even though I'm just here for one tournament. I'm just trying to be as useful as possible with the little preparation I've had.
Considering your late addition, playing without the team's IGL, how satisfied are you with your performance at the event so far?
Well, I think I'm improving game after game and it's cool to see that by keeping my head cool, I'm actually growing throughout the tournament. I obviously have expectations and always want to do better but I see myself improving and I realize how positive it is.
I'm on the right path and it's a good thing to notice. Those nine months away also brought me a lot on a personal side and made me realize certain things about myself. I've been able to face myself and find solutions in order to reach my goals. I would say I'm not satisfied but not unsatisfied either. The team puts me in great condition and they’re really supporting me. We will see at the end of the tournament but, so far, I'm proud of what I'm doing.
Who has been calling the shots in the team at the event?
We’ve been sharing responsibilities and have different callers depending on the maps. NiKo being the main one, we also have AmaNEk and huNter- on some maps. It's a backup solution obviously, but I think the guys are doing really well.
Shockingly, G2 hasn't won a Big Event since the "French Superteam" era in 2017, and IEM Winter looks like the best chance the team has had to lift a trophy in a long time. What would it mean for you personally to win this tournament?
That would be an amazing storyline, wouldn't it? But I don't want to think about it. We are facing a tough opponent on Saturday, hopefully, we will reach the Final but for this to happen, we have to think step by step, round by round.
I hope I get to win a tier 1 event with these guys, they are more than teammates for me, so it would be awesome to make it.
You spoke about a potential move to VALORANT, many see you as someone that is happy with streaming and doesn't want to return to competition. But seeing the Major, arena events coming back to CS:GO, and now playing a LAN yourself - has this influenced your plans for the future? What should we expect from kennyS in 2022?
First of all, I really think this break has been good for me. Keep in mind that since 2012, I have never really gone through a cooler period. We were going from tournament to tournament, with a rhythm that kept increasing in the past few years.
Then, I was looking to take advantage of this time to do things that I hadn't been able to do before, streaming, my own content, and developing my brand overall. But I always kept the competition in mind, and the more time passed, the more I wanted to compete again. I tried VALORANT and this game is good, fun, and refreshing... But the truth is that I couldn't really take the plunge and project myself, and as soon as the Major started, I was reminded of why I loved playing CS so much. Beyond CS, it's the competitive aspect, all of it! Even working and ending up getting results, it's basically what CS gives in your life on a daily basis which is addictive, at the one condition that you're doing things right.
I made the decision to focus on CS, and starting at that point, everything was much easier and natural. Getting back to competitive CS is definitely my focus now, and I'm looking forward to it, even though it's a tough road considering the situation in the scene, I feel ready to prove my worth again. I've learned a lot over the years, and I've had time to mature so much about myself. I have the firm intention of doing things I haven't done before and putting all that experience into action. Let's see where this will bring me!