Gowda rides social media frenzy to trials
Sports Authority of India (SAI) later said on Twitter that Gowda’s train tickets have been booked and he will be assessed in Bengaluru on Monday.Updated: Feb 15, 2020 23:49 IST
A Karnataka man running with buffaloes in a traditional race called Kambala and reportedly covering 100m in 9.55 seconds—faster than Usain Bolt, that is—is just the kind of stuff that leads to social media frenzy. And it has. On twitter, Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju declared that the man, 28-year-old Srinivasa Gowda, will be called for trials to the Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre in Bengaluru.
“I’ll call Karnataka’s Srinivasa Gowda for trials by top SAI coaches. There’s lack of knowledge in masses about the standards of Olympics especially in athletics where ultimate human strength & endurance are surpassed. I’ll ensure that no talents in India are left out untested,” Rijiju wrote on his twitter handle on Saturday.
Sports Authority of India (SAI) later said on Twitter that Gowda’s train tickets have been booked and he will be assessed in Bengaluru on Monday.
Gowda, a construction worker from Moodabidri, supposedly covered the 142m distance of the paddy field race in 13.62 seconds, holding on tight to the reins of two buffaloes going full tilt. The race was held at Aikala village near Mangaluru.
Several questions come to mind. How accurately was the race timed? How was the 100m mark decided? And, most importantly, what role do the two speeding buffaloes play in the reported speed of the man?
Gowda’s run reminds of a grainy video that made the rounds of social media where a gaunt, mustachioed man, is seen running barefoot and pell-mell down a rural road.
That video surfaced in August last year. The man was 24-year-old farmer Rameshwar Gurjar, and the video was tweeted with the claim that he covered 100m in 11 seconds.
It was promptly retweeted by the former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, and then again by Rijuju.
Gurjar was immediately brought to the SAI centre in Bhopal, handed a brand new pair of spikes, and told to run in a trial. This time, he clocked 12.9 seconds, finishing last among eight competitors (for context, the Indian record for U14 boys in 100m is 11.19 seconds).
It shows the desperation with which India is looking for one good sprinter, someone who can at least meet the qualifying standard for the Olympics (for men, 10.05 seconds).
The best an Indian has done in 100m is Amiya Mallick, who timed 10.26 seconds at the Federation Cup in Delhi in 2016. The fastest Indian right now is young Gurindervir Singh, 19, whose best this season is 10.35 seconds.
Mallick, who is currently not in the national camp for sprinters at Patiala, says that there is a simple reason for sprinting not taking off—there is no focus on the sport.
“We’re on the threshold of breaking the 10-second barrier but the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) is not focusing on sprints,” Mallick says. “There is a lot of potential in the tribal regions (Orissa, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra) but we don’t have a system to scout talent.”
This lack of attention to sprints is most acutely felt at the coaching level. National sprint coach, Tarun Saha, who is based in Kolkata, says, “The coaches are following 50-year-old training methods, which will never help elite male sprinters break the 10-second barrier. There should at least be latest training equipment to improve power in the legs. How can you expect them to perform with outdated equipment?”Asks Saha.
India’s elite 100m sprinters have been without a national coach since 2016.