Noah Lyles poses with a Yu Gi Oh card and the gold medal after winning the men's 100 meter final on Day Three 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Trials Track & Field at Hayward Field on June 23, 2024 in Eugene, Oregon
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Noah Lyles Is Bringing Anime to the Olympics!

It’s no big news that Japanese manga, anime, and related products have become extremely popular over the last decade, finding their way into other mainstream cultures. Now, the trading card game Yu-Gi-Oh! has entered the discourse surrounding the Olympics, thanks to sprinter Noah Lyles.

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26-year-old athlete Noah Lyles has just qualified for the Paris Olympics and may have received a boost—a Yu-Gi-Oh! boost, that is. In two rounds at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials, the athlete showed that he was carrying Yu-Gi-Oh! playing cards. But why? According to USA Today, the decision to carry the cards during the qualifiers has to do with a bet Lyles has with world champion shotputter Chase Ealey.


Yesterday, Noah Lyles pulled out a Blue-Eyes White Dragon Yu-Gi-Oh! card before his 100m race. Today, brought out Exodia the Forbidden One. ? #TrackFieldTrials24 #trackandfield #noahlyles #yugioh

♬ original sound – NBC Sports

The two share a mutual love of anime and have made a bet with one another: If Lyles continues to showcase his Yu-Gi-Oh! cards before the beginning of his races, Ealey will wear the Naruto-inspired Rock Lee leg weights. Lyles explained:

“Me and Chase Ealey got something going on. She said if I pull out Yu-Gi-Oh! cards each round, she’ll wear the Rock Lee weighted shoes and drop weights during her finals. So I’ve got to live up to my part of the deal so she lives up to her part of the deal.”

USA Today

What is Yu-Gi-Oh!?

Yu-Gi-Ho! main character Yugi Muto
(Toei Animation)

Yu-Gi-Oh! was originally a manga created by Kazuki Takahashi that began in September 1996 and ran until March 2004 in Weekly Shonen Jump. The story follows a young boy named Yugi Mutou who is shy but an avid gamer. One day, he solves an ancient puzzle known as the Millennium Puzzle and his body becomes host to a thousand-year-old spirit who loves to gamble. Whenever Yugi is threatened the spirit comes forth and challenges those threatening Yugi and his friends to a dangerous game known as the Shadow Games.

The style of the game in the manga became so popular that it was developed into a real card trading game by Konami. It was launched in 1999 in Japan and in 2002 in North America, by 2009 it was named the top-selling trading card game in the world by Guinness World Records. In 2021, it was estimated that the trading card game had sold over 35 billion cards worldwide.

Which cards did Lyles use and why?

BlueEyesWhiteDragon Yu-Gi-Oh! card

In the first race, Lyles showed off his Blue-Eyes White Dragon monster card. This is a very popular card within the franchise and, of any normal monster, the Blue-Eyes White Dragon has the highest attack value, which likely means Lyles was implying he was going to attack the race. The card has been printed a fair few times, with different iterations being made available, but an original first-edition 2002 card has been valued in some auctions as high as $150,000!

The second card was Exodia the Forbidden One, one that, while not as strong as the Blue-Eyes White Dragon, can be unstoppable if played the right way. This card made an appearance during the pilot episode of the anime and was used to defeat Seto Kaiba; the series anti-hero and frequent wielder of the Blue-Eyes White Dragon.

Fans of the game and manga/anime have been thrilled to see the franchise represented in such a way. Some worry that at the Olympics, someone could pull out some unbeatable card options, with one Reddit user commenting, “I’m just waiting for the actual Olympics when his opponent blows by him and as he runs past him, the runner flashes all 5 pieces of Exodia.”

We look forward to seeing what cards the athlete will pull out next!

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Laura Pollacco
Laura Pollacco (she/her) is a contributing writer here at The Mary Sue, having written for digital media since 2022 and has a keen interest in all things Marvel, Lord of the Rings, and anime. She has worked for various publications including We Got This Covered, but much of her work can be found gracing the pages of print and online publications in Japan, where she resides. Outside of writing she treads the boards as an actor, is a portrait and documentary photographer, and takes the little free time left to explore Japan.