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No one could accuse Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man, of being a couch potato.
The sprinting superstar, winner of eight Olympic gold medals for the 100 metres, 200 metres and 4 x 100 metres relay, has now decided to add his considerable sporting heft and charisma to the rapidly emerging world of esports.
Bolt has become a joint-owner of nascent Irish esports group WYLDE (for “What You Love Doing Esports”), which was founded by fund manager Stephen Daly and ex-JP Morgan banker David Cronin in the depths of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown last year.
The participation of the legendary Jamaican sprinter has further boosted the profile of esports—which, by some estimates, could double in value this year to US$2 billion (US$2.63bn/€2.37bn)—and reinforced its still-disputed claim to being a “real” sport after all.
“I’ve been a gamer all my life. It’s a big community, and it’s just getting bigger. I’m a proud member of the growing esports community,” said 35-year-old Bolt, now retired from athletics but still the world record holder for the 100 metres, with a blistering run of 9.58 seconds he set at the 2009 World Championships in the Berlin Olympic stadium.
“WYLDE is on a journey to becoming one of the biggest brands in the fastest-growing sport in the world.”
Patently, WYLDE aims to use Bolt’s star status to attract lucrative sponsorship deals.
The Irish group represents professional players in France, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Slovenia, Spain and the UK, and has teams competing in Rainbow Six Siege, the EU’s Rocket League Championship series, French regional league Valorant and the FIFA 21 Championship.
“Usain coming on board takes WYLDE to the next level,” said co-founder David Cronin.
“With his vast competitive experience and Olympic-winning mentality, his guidance will be invaluable as we continue to build professional structures to support the development of our players.”
World’s Fastest Growing Sport
Bolt added: “Esports has become so big that people are making a job out of it. If you’re very competitive, gaming is for you — trust me. It’s like track and field. I have to work hard. I have to make sure I stay on top of things, so it’s the same thing [with] esports and gaming.”
“WYLDE is on a journey to becoming one of the biggest brands in the fastest growing sport in the world.
In esports, like in track & field, it’s critical to have that competitive, winning mentality. I look forward to working with the WYLDE leadership team to help our players to reach their potential, while also taking care of their physical and mental well-being.”
Two-years-ago football icon David Beckham invested in Guild Esports, the London-listed group.
And esports is now poised to make a major breakthrough by being trialled and treated as a bona fide sport at this summer’s upcoming Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England and it may soon also be on the Olympic roster.
However, the move has been criticised by Will Roberts, the Chief Operating Officer of the Youth Sport Trust in the UK.
“It confuses the boundary between sedentary activity and physical sport,” said Roberts and “isn’t wise” given the number of overweight children.
“The philosophical question is: what is the Commonwealth Games about? If it’s about providing competition to bring people together, great, let’s really open it up. [But] then I think any sedentary activity has to be questioned.
“There’s a risk of conflation between a competitive gaming activity, which is sedentary, and a competitive sporting activity which is physically active.
“When we’ve got a challenge around the amount of sedentary behaviour in society, the number of young people who are overweight and not physically or mentally fit, then I think sport associating itself with a sedentary activity isn’t wise.”
Gaming giant Entain are under no illusions as to where their interests lie and, like Bolt, they’re buying into esports big-time.
They’ve recently acquired Seattle-based esports business Unikrn in the USA and have now appointed Brian Lancey, formerly a Vice President of Mastercard, as Chief Marketing Officer for the company.
The race to dominate esports is well and truly on.