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Chinese e-sports superstar Uzi announces retirement at the age of 23

The most recognizable Chinese League of Legends Pro League player cited diabetes and shoulder pain as reasons for leaving e-sports.

Uzi, whose real name is Jian Zihao, is China's most beloved League of Legends player. Courtesy of Riot Games via South China Morning Post. Uzi, whose real name is Jian Zihao, is China's most beloved League of Legends player. Courtesy of Riot Games via South China Morning Post.

At 23 years old, China’s most famous e-sports player says he can no longer play because of poor health.

In a post on microblogging site Weibo, Uzi said that he has decided to retire after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes last year. The condition is a result of constant stress, obesity, an irregular diet, and staying up late, he said.

“My physical condition doesn’t allow me to keep fighting,” Uzi said in the post. He cited shoulder pain, which has troubled him for years and prompted him to consider retirement as early as 2015, when he was just 18.

To try to improve his health, Uzi said he’s been taking medication over the past six months and gradually changing his daily routine, but it hasn’t worked. He also said the medication has negatively impacted his mental state.

“Due to injuries accumulated over eight years of high intensity training, at the suggestion of medical professionals, Uzi was advised to rest during the 2020 LPL spring split,” Uzi’s team, Royal Never Give Up (RNG), said on Twitter. “After spring a decision was made and we understood and respected his wishes, and will continue to assist him.”

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Uzi’s retirement immediately became the top trending topic on Chinese social media platforms Weibo and Zhihu, where many of Uzi’s fans lamented the news. Some said Uzi’s retirement marked the end of their youth.

Born in 1997, Uzi started his career as a professional League of Legends player in 2012 at the age of 15, taking his team Royal Club to the League of Legends World Championship Finals. After stints at Royal Club’s rival OMG and another Chinese team called QG Reapers, he returned to Royal Club’s new team RNG, which asserted its dominance in League of Legends in 2018.

“I will probably just be Jian Zihao from now on,” the player said in a video interview with China’s state broadcaster CCTV, using his real name. “Uzi will say goodbye to you for now.”

And it looks like he really means “for now.” In that same interview, Uzi said he’s just temporarily leaving the arena and couldn’t say for sure that he wouldn’t return in the future. He also said that he feels regret for things he hasn’t achieved and other things that he could have done better, but he didn’t elaborate.

“If there’s still enough time, and if I’m still able,” Uzi said, “I believe that there are still many things I can achieve.”

But it’s not clear whether Uzi will still be able to continue his legendary career as a professional e-sports player if he decides to return one day. The average age of retirement for e-sports players is reportedly 25, when a gamer’s reflexes start to decline. Some retired e-sports players could become coaches or e-sports managers, while some have turned to livestreaming.

Whatever he decides to do, the gamer promised in his CCTV interview to “stay in everybody’s sight.” He should have options. As his team posted on Twitter, Uzi was “not only the heart and soul of RNG, but also an icon in the e-sports world as a whole.”

“From a teenager onwards he never gave up and worked as hard as he could to be the best he could in his role, he inspired many,” RNG said.

This article was originally published by Abacus News.