A little known Srinivasa Gowda from a small village in Karnataka has stolen the limelight and is dominating headlines thanks to his Usain Bolt-Esque feat that he achieved in the traditional buffalo race, ‘Kambala’. Gowda covered 142.50 meters in just 13.62 seconds and a simple calculation reveals that his speed for 100 metres would have been just 9.55 seconds which is .03 seconds faster than World Champion Usain Bolt’s record. Social Media erupted to celebrate Gowda’s feat and thanks to industrialist Anand Mahindra and Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju, Gowda is all set to undergo trials at the Sports Authority of India.
#WATCH – Srinivasa Gowda from Karnataka ran 100m in 9.55 seconds at a "Kambala" (buffalo race). He was faster than Usain Bolt who took 9.58 seconds to create a world record. pic.twitter.com/rrbf3lxnpn
— News18 (@CNNnews18) February 14, 2020
28-year-old Srinivasa Gowda became the fastest runner in the history of the traditional sport of Kambala in the coastal region, breaking a 30-year-old record as he covered 142.50 meters in just 13.62 seconds. Kambala is an ancient, traditional Buffalo race in muddy or slushy paddy fields of Mangalore and Udupi regions of Karnataka.
As India celebrates the achievement of Gowda, BBC News (World), the orientalist media organization with its colonial mindset, tried to undermine the sport he participated in, that is, Kambala. “Construction worker in South India compared to sprinter Usain Bolt after record-breaking win in controversial buffalo race” tweeted BBC. The article, written by Imran Qureshi of BBC Hindi team, was published under the title, ‘Srinivas Gowda: The Indian buffalo racer compared to Usain Bolt’
Construction worker in south India compared to sprinter Usain Bolt after record-breaking win in controversial buffalo racehttps://t.co/rn263Qy0Au
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) February 14, 2020
Many villages organise Kambala in which dozens of youth participate with their best-trained buffaloes who in turn, have been trained around the year. Gowda’s feat and the subsequent reaction reflects what it means to be a custodian of a culture in its truest sense. However, BBC would rather undermine the buffalo sport, perhaps because it finds its roots in Indian culture.
Horse racing & polo is royal & buffalo racing is controversial?
Why are you mixing up issues of speed of a man with animal rights?
These races are Indian rural Olympics
Remove these colonial tinted glasses & appreciate local games of other countries 🤨#SrinivasaGowda
— Pallavi (@pallavict) February 16, 2020
Various news outlets covered Gowda’s feat and it was Anand Mahindra who decided to bring his feat to the limelight and get Gowda a chance to showcase his talent at the highest level. Mahindra tweeted: “Just one look at his physique & you know this man is capable of extraordinary athletic feats. Now either @KirenRijiju provides him training as a 100m sprinter or we get Kambala to become an Olympic event. Either way, we want a gold medal for Srinivasa!”
Just one look at his physique & you know this man is capable of extraordinary athletic feats. Now either @KirenRijiju provides him training as a 100m sprinter or we get Kambala to become an Olympic event. Either way, we want a gold medal for Srinivasa! 😊 https://t.co/H3SBiOVSKr
— anand mahindra (@anandmahindra) February 15, 2020
Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju was quick to respond and assured that Gowda will be given the opportunity to train under the watchful gaze of top SAI coaches as Rijiju ensured that no talent in India is left untested.
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 is left out untested. https://t.co/ohCLQ1YNK0
— Kiren Rijiju (@KirenRijiju) February 15, 2020
In no time, social media erupted in jubilation and was abuzz with Gowda’s remarkable feat. However, Gowda’s comparison with Usain Bolt must be taken with a pinch of salt. Gowda was aided by the pair of buffaloes which would have certainly helped him increase his speed however, the race was run in a slushy field, which acted as a speed deterrent. Hence, claims that Gowda is faster than Bolt lack substance as of yet. Gowda in his interviews post his feat also humbly played down the comparisons with the legendary Bolt. However, It is important that Gowda doesn’t end up being just another social media sensation.
Last year, Rameshwar Gurjar, a farmer from Madhya Pradesh, enjoyed a short-lived fame when a video of Gurjar running 100 metres in 11 seconds went viral and was subsequently dubbed as the ‘Usain Bolt of India’. Rijiju spotted Gurjar’s talent and awarded him a trial race at the SAI centre in Bhopal – where he finished last with a disappointing timing. Rijiju admitted that Gurjar was exhausted due to the media glare and couldn’t perform well. Rijiju stressed that Gurjar needed time and proper training to perform well. Unfortunately, Gurjar has slipped under the radar and hasn’t been heard of since.
One hopes that Gowda doesn’t follow the footsteps of Gurjar and can indeed make India proud at the Olympics. Though it might seem to be a long shot, Gowda can indeed qualify for the Tokyo Olympics with the heats just around the corner, if he performs well. As it stands, with the power of social media, Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju took notice of Gowda and now the 28-year-old Kambala athlete is all set to reach SAI on Monday where he will be trained under the country’s finest coaches.
Yes @PMuralidharRao ji. Officials from SAI have contacted him. His rail ticket is done and he will reach SAI centre on monday. I will ensure top national coaches to conduct his trials properly. We are team @narendramodi ji and will do everything to identity sporting talents! https://t.co/RF7KMfIHAD
— Kiren Rijiju (@KirenRijiju) February 15, 2020
The role of social media cannot be stressed enough in making this wonderful thing possible. Gowda’s feat highlights that great talent is waiting to be tapped in our rural areas. Gowda has proved that a man’s physique is not laced with steroids or attained after elaborate diet and protein plans specified by nutritionists. Cultural sports have been important in bringing out this sort of talent and need to be celebrated and cherished for this reason. Sports academies too need to hunt more such talent in the rural areas, to ensure that no one is left behind.