Soaring Champion: DLSU-D alumna Gia Llanes dominates Sea Games Women’s Wild Rift
Originally published from HF Volume 36 Issue 3
The world of Esports has opened opportunities that are beyond the count, from unlocking the possibility of pursuing a profession that was once just a pastime to forging acclaimed championships that bring honor to the homeland. Taking the world by storm, the Philippines yet again spawned fierce and outstanding Esports players with a historical win in Women’s League of Legends: Wild Rift at the 31st Southeast Asian (SEA) Games. One of them hails all the way from DLSU-D, a GrindSky Eris player and country’s champion, Gia Llanes.
Not for the faint of hearts, the expanding horizon of highly competitive Esports demands more than just talent, but also refined technical skills, a professional mindset, sheer determination, and sacrifices. Withstanding the nerve-racking pressure points, the story of Llanes tells us that champions are definitely not born, but made.
A champion’s humble beginning
Taking a trip down memory lane, Llanes recounted how she always loved playing video games since childhood. Fueling this burning passion as years went by, she then joined local leagues in college that set the beginning of her road to victory. Before raising the country’s banner as a professional Wild Rift player in the international scene, the BS Tourism graduate first raised the flag of DLSU-D patriots at the League of Legends Collegiate League (LCL) back in 2015.
“It was 2015 when I first joined the LCL for DLSU-D. That time, me and my schoolmates just wanted to represent the school because we thought that we have chances of winning since we believe in the skills of us Lasallians,” she told The HERALDO FILIPINO.
Aiming to turn her rookie skills into professional gameplays, Llanes also remembered the days when she first set foot in the competitive world of Esports. While she seems sure and confident of the talent she has, Llanes still knows there is more to hone and achieve in her pursuit as a professional player.
“People who I first played with when I was a beginner said that I also have that talent but it needs to be trained and polished so I started to be dedicated,” the Lasallian pride shared.
As the whole world felt the unprecedented shift brought by the pandemic, the Esports community is no exception in suffering the drawbacks of the health crisis. Tracing back in time, Llanes said she never got the chance to play LOL again but remained optimistic with the launch of Wild Rift in late 2020. As one door closes, a new door opens.
“When the pandemic started, I never got the chance to play LOL again. Good thing, Wild Rift was released so I started playing it as it [is] the mobile version of LOL,” Llanes said.
En route to glory
Standing between a trodden black road and a road not taken, Llanes was once torn in the middle of choosing education or pursuing a career in gaming like many gamers go through in life. Making up her mind in times of dilemma, she decided to steer clear from gaming momentarily to concentrate on her studies — but for not so long as opportunities once knocked on her door. Taking the chance, fortune favored the brave as Llanes qualified to compete overseas which led to her exposure as a professional player.
“It paid off because my team won [the] qualifier and we went to Singapore for that tournament. With that win, it became my first time flying overseas and being in the news as an Esports player,” she recalled.
Cementing her career further as an Esports professional player, Llanes plays as support of the GrindSky Eris team, and her role on the battlefield transcends beyond the virtual world of Wild Rift. Tested by trials of fire and time, Llanes guides them with a lion’s share of experience in Esports under her belt. The topnotch synergy that she has formed with the team led to understanding them without saying a word.
To the victor go the spoils and the loss of face to the defeated. The journey of a professional player is not sunshine and rainbows, sharing moments of triumph and upsetting yet humbling defeats.
“We professional players are human too. We also feel pressure every upcoming tournament and feel depressed every time we lose,” Llanes expressed in an interview.
In the lowest points and heart-breaking times, Llanes chooses not to dwell in it along with her teammates.
“When I lose, I just take a pause to reevaluate my skills, routine, and mindset and get back on the game to fix what I think is lacking. I also talk to my team [about] what we should do next so we won’t repeat our mistakes the next time.”
The next leg of the journey
Clinching the country’s first gold medal in a female tournament in the SEA Games Esports history, the question of what’s coming next for Llanes stands harder than ever. But it is only just the beginning of more thrilling gameplays for the Lasallian champion, as she keeps her nose on the grindstone.
“I am looking forward [to] playing in big stages again like the biggest professional league in Wild Rift which is Wild Rift Champions SEA (WCS) and hopefully, Olympics, if there will be one,” she shared when asked about her future plans.
Driven with inspiration and passion, Llanes’ battle does not only end in the virtual battlefield of Wild Rift as she seeks to champion a greater cause — breaking the glass ceiling for women in Esports.
“I also noticed that there are only a few girls that are joining. Most are being ridiculed as being weak because of [their] gender. I’m competitive by nature and I always do what I can to be good at something so I said to myself, I should be really good at the game to break the stereotypes,” Llanes said on shattering discriminative gender barriers.
The expedition of a professional player to the top may be gruelling at times, but it is this burning fire and passion that made her the champion she is today.
“Make your passion your profession. There is nothing [more] rewarding in this world than doing what you love, earning from it, and leaving a legacy from it. Weigh your sacrifices so you still have something to rely on when you fail on your journey as a pro. Good luck my fellow gamers,’’ said Llanes on life decisions and building legacy.
From the abilities honed over years of hefty training under a pressuring competitive environment, professional players are capable of reclaiming the narratives of Esports being a lost cause into a career that brings honor to the country and changes lives for the better. As the Patriot Gia Llanes hit the road to becoming a professional Esports player, gaming could literally take one farther and further to victory, as they soar high and be a champion of their own story.