The 2021 VALORANT Champions reflect on their year and how their underdog status secured their victory.

In a breathtaking and amazing five-map series, Acend took Gambit to the limit and became the first VALORANT Champions. Postgame, everyone was all smiles as the impressive trophy sat in front and in between IGL Santeri "BONECOLD" Sassi and Aleksander "zeek" Zygmunt.

And when asked how they feel, as with any historic achievement, BONECOLD admits that it didn't even feel real.

"I mean, I think it's one of those things that, you know, just doesn't come to you in a day or two, I really feel like it's going to hit us hard once it does."

Patryk "starxo" Kopczyński even asked jokingly, "Can I cry now?" Immediately, the Spanish-Ukrainian Vladyslav "Kiles" Shvets replied, "What do you mean?" as the rest of the team laughed.

Rest, Relaxation, and Reflection

But the emotions were definitely running high for Acend--deservedly so. And after winning the biggest event in VALORANT esports, Acend was more than ready to take a breather.

"We're going to take a break from practice," BONECOLD continues. "You know, there are no scrims, there are no official games. I feel like that's the point when we can just look back at the run and reflect on what we have done."

The face of a world champion. Image via Riot Games.
The face of a world champion. Image via Riot Games.

Coach Laurynas "Nbs" Kisielius adds: "Just want to add, we're gonna definitely take like, three, four, well deserved weeks off. It's been a long season, we've been working hard. So we're gonna refresh before the next year."

"And regarding the fans, like there are a lot of fans that believed in us since masters one since the very start. So I wanted to thank them a lot."

"We've been through lows and highs. Mostly highs, lows, so it's nice. But yeah, like huge shout out to the fans, to everyone that was supporting us throughout the year. And no matter what, without them, you know, it doesn't really make too much sense. Right. So, so thank you all and yeah, onward and upward."

Under Pressure

Making history does have its perks and it does have its drawbacks. For Acend, it's having to return next year knowing that teams will be gunning for them in hopes of winning that trophy. Having that target on your back could cause a lot of pressure. But does Acend feel that pressure?

Zeek doesn't think so. "This will not stop us from still growing as a team and as players and that will not affect our gameplay negatively for the next season. And we will fight for our title again."

What also helps is having a solid mental. With a mental coach identified only as "Thomas," their weekly sessions provided them with the fortitude to allow them to press on, even after a disastrous performance on Fracture.

BONECOLD expressed the importance of this, which very much explained Acend's very easygoing reaction after dropping the map. "I feel we have we've had more weekly sessions with our mental coach and every single one of them has brought us more more together. We've had one-on-one sessions with all the players and I feel Thomas has made us more mature. "He made us learn how to handle all the pressure."

"Coming in, I feel he is the man in the dark who doesn't get any recognition but has done the most amazing job to make us the team that we are right now."

The Underdogs No Longer

As teams were eliminated from the tournament, it seemed that Acend would truly make up for their middling performances over the last year, especially after their elimination from Masters Berlin. They had something to prove and against the seemingly unstoppable Gambit, they were really considered the underdogs. BONECOLD even expressed the advantages this reputation had for the team and just like Masters, he explained that this only helped them secure the win.

"It's almost felt the same. We won Masters 1, we played solidly in Masters 3. There were a lot of people that didn't really believe in us winning. And we came from groups to quarters, even to semis as a massive, massive underdog really helped us. So we didn't have any pressure at all facing Liquid and we came here to play against Gambit, like the other ups and downs in the series.

But we never lost momentum. We never let it get to our nerves. It helped us a lot and you can see what happens when we just play without pressure and we just play for fun."

"Believe in your teammates." Acend reflects on lessons learned

It's been said many times that you learn more from losing rather than winning. And it can be difficult to pinpoint any mistakes made when you are rightfully celebrating your triumphs. So how would Acend summarize the tournament? What did they learn from it after winning it all?

"Don't give up," starxo states. "And believe in your teammates."

Kiles says, "And keep evolving. Under pressure, game after game."

"Adapt to every situation," BONECOLD offers.

"You don't need strats!" Zeke replies.

Nbs gave a more nuanced answer: "Honestly, during the tournament, it was clear to see from the many different teams that even though a team could be better, there are like a lot of external factors being played. You know, the pressure. So it's really, really hard to perform to your fullest."

"And I think to win it all you have to deal with that pressure. I'm very happy with how the guys dealt with it."

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