Despite regularly featuring the biggest names from around the world in competitive Street Fighter 5, we’ve seen an odd pattern of younger players doing particularly well in the high-stakes event. In 2016 a 20-year-old NuckleDu won gold, in 2017 an 18-year-old MenaRD and in 2019 a 23-year-old XSET|iDom.
We’ve also seen some notable younger winners of the Last Chance qualifiers (Chris CCH and ZJZ spring to mind) and this year we will see very well that 19-year-old BLG|Zhen Kuang took the title of both the LCQ and also of the Capcom Cup 2023 Champion. The Chinese M. Bison player not only took advantage of the Last Chance qualifier amongst the winners amid a group of absolute killers, but he’s plowed through his first pool of Capcom Cup qualifiers like it was a slow Tuesday.
On his way to easily qualifying for the big dance this year, Zhen faced off against Capcom Cup 2018 Champion RB|Gachikun, Saishunkan|Shuuto, AZ|Kichipa-mu, Evo 2018 Champion MOUZ|Problem X, and Broski, among others .
He secured a Capcom Cup spot the hard way, then was thrown into the proverbial depths of the pools and found himself in a group consisting of RR|Mono, NASR|BigBird, as well as the only person to hold a Capcom Cup and won an Evo (as well as an Evo Japan): Victrix|Momochi.
He beat them all.
Zhen has now fought his way into the top 16 of Capcom Cup IX with a 5-0 record in pools (his overall record is matched only by M80|EndingWalker, a European Ed user who happens to be 16).
In his post-LCQ win interview with James Chen, the young Bison player shared some of his training practices.
“Recently I’ve played in two offline tournaments and won one of them. Mostly [my practice] was online and the connection isn’t that good, so I’m really glad I was able to play offline here,” he explained.
When Chen asked if there was a specific player Zhen would most like to play against, he had this to say:
“That is hard. I think maybe Momochi? I really appreciate his neutrality, he’s just that good. I think he would be fun to play with, plus he plays Cody and I practice that match a lot.”
As mentioned above, the two were actually placed in the same pool. When they fought, Momochi (who was actually using Cody) fell 1-2 to Zhen’s M. Bison.
The 19-year-old flew in from China this weekend as a relatively unknown competitor but has already made a name for himself in the first two chapters of the Capcom Cup. It’s still early days and as we’ve seen many times before, anything can happen at this world stage event. Nonetheless, this weekend, Zhen has a chance to carve his name in stone in what will almost certainly be Street Fighter 5’s final Capcom Cup.
He meets 2022 Evo champion HB|Kawano, who is next in the top 16. Be sure to check out our regularly updated Capcom Cup IX results story to keep up with all the action.