Olympic Athlete Keeps Bringing Yu-Gi-Oh Cards To His Races—And Winning

Noah Lyles flashing the head of Exodia at a recent Olympic trial heat. - Screenshot: NBC Sports / Kotaku
Noah Lyles flashing the head of Exodia at a recent Olympic trial heat. - Screenshot: NBC Sports / Kotaku

When the hell did you get into Yu-Gi-Oh? Where were you all when I was the last holdout of my middle school lunch period trying to do synchro-summons because I thought they were the coolest thing in the world? I ask this because there has not only been a discernable uptick in the trading card game and video games’ popularity of late, but some guy is now pulling out cards and winning Olympic qualifying races like some kind of mad man.

Noah Lyles, who’s evidently on his way to representing the US in the Paris Olympics later this year, is also apparently the Olympics preeminent Yu-Gi-Oh scholar. Before his recent heats (or races), Lyles has been flashing popular Yu-Gi-Oh cards to the cameras, including Blue-Eyes White Dragon and the head of Exodia, before tucking them back into his running suit. To top it all off, or perhaps to add insult to injury, he’s been winning these races as well. Folks, I think we may have discovered the fastest geek alive.

After flashing the head of Exodia just the other day, Lyles has followed it up in the most delightfully predictable way: two more pieces of Exodia. For the uninitiated, unaware, and unbothered, Exodia is a legendary monster in the fiction of Yu-Gi-Oh. It’s so powerful that when it was sealed away as a card, it was split into several pieces in the hope that they would never be used for fear of its literal destructive power. Thus, there are five pieces of Exodia: a head, two arms, and two legs.

In practice, Exodia is one of the most potent monsters to have in your deck because simply drawing all five pieces immediately wins the game. The modern version of Yu-Gi-Oh features mechanics that allow for Exodia to be taken out of play, or at the very least mitigated, so it isn’t all powerful like it used to be. Still, a player stunned a crowd by winning a tournament using Exodia just last year, so they’ve still got the juice, and that’s seemingly what Lyles is suggesting about himself.

In the same interview where he flashed both the right and left arms of Exodia, Lyles claimed that “Now it’s time to build the whole thing. I got the left and right arms, and I got the legs coming tomorrow.” When the interviewer had zero clue what Lyles was telling him, he clarified, “All the Yu-Gi-Oh fans know. Something big is coming.”

Lyles isn’t just pulling out the cards because he’s a huge fan of Yu-Gi-Oh and anime though. In an incredibly cute twist, he’s actually flashing them as part of a bet with another athlete, the world champion shot putter Chase Ealey. According to Lyles, they have a running bet which stipulates that if he flashes Yu-Gi-Oh cards before his heats throughout the ongoing Olympic trials, Ealey will wear Rock Lee’s (of Naruto) leg weights—which ironically make him super fast-–and take them off during her own finals. This might be the best sports anime I’ve ever seen.

It now seems incredibly likely that we’ll see Lyles pull out the entirety of Exodia over the course of his Olympic trials, and seeing as how he keeps knocking wins back, only time will tell what else he’s got up his suit. I only pray that he makes it to the Olympics and keeps this bit up for the hell of it. In the meantime, do you think he’s taking suggestions? If so, bring out Black Luster Soldier next, king.

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