After spending the better part of the day going through a grueling training regimen at the John Godina World Throws Centre in Phoenix,discus-thrower Vikas Gowda takes time out to keep himself updated with the middle-school algebra curriculum.
A veritable giant at 69,India’s Olympics medal hopeful splits his hours between being a top-international athlete and the less brawny activity of having to simplify mathematical formulae for the school children he tutors. The graduate in mathematics and statistics does this for little more than kicks and pocket money.
Vikass more serious activity of preparing for the London Olympics at one of the premier throw academies has translated into success. Medals at the Commonwealth Games (CWG) and the Asian Games,re-writing his own national record (66.28m) and a bronze at the prestigious Diamond League have followed his stint at Phoenix,but it has also come at a price. His expenditure for the current year alone runs to the tune of $115,000.
Help arrived in the form of the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs’ Operation Excellence for London Olympics (OPEX) 2012,which provided Gowda with $25,000 towards training and other expenses.
But the shortfall of $90,000 has,expectedly,punched holes in the pockets of the Gowdas. To soften the blow on his father Shive’s credit card,Vikas,puts his skills in mathematics to good use,by conducting private tuition.
Clocking 15 hours of classes a week,the fee he charges doesn’t cover his monthly expenses,but is handy pocket money. The kids I tutor are between 12-15 years old. The lack of funding is one of the main reasons I have to work. I want to take some of the burden off my parents. They have sacrificed so much for me. I thought things would change after my performance at the CWG,Asian Games and last years World Championship but little has, Vikas said.
Shive recalls that Vikas was fascinated by statistics and numbers from a young age. While his elder brother Vikram,a shot-putter and discus-thrower himself,graduated in finance and business,Vikas also followed suit in his area of interest.
I was always interested in math when I was growing up. When I went to college I started out as a computer science major but eventually shifted to mathematics. In 2009,when I was injured and not competing I began teaching at my high school. I mainly taught algebra to high school kids. When I moved to Phoenix,I did more of private tutoring because it could fit in with my hectic training schedule, Vikas said.
Shive,a former decathlete and an India national coach during the Seoul Olympics,believes his son’s ability to wear two hats speaks not just about his passion to win an Olympic medal for India,but also the lack of enough funding,for even elite athletes.
It is not ideal for an athlete to have to conduct private tutions in an Olympic year. But Vikass training is expensive and there is never enough money. The good thing is that he does enjoy teaching. The fees he charges is just about enough for him to buy a new pair of shoes perhaps. It is a small amount but everything counts, Shive said.
Shive moved to Frederick,Maryland in 1989 when Vikas was six. The official apathy,lack of infrastructure and absence of professionalism in the 80s,things which Shive experienced first-hand,made him travel across the globe in a quest to make his sons Olympic medallists. There was never a doubt in Shive’s mind that though based in the United States,his sons would represent India.
The dream was almost shattered when Vikas was injured all through 2009. The move from Frederick to Phoenix was a make-or-break one.
The biggest change I made was moving to Phoenix at the end of 2009. I didn’t compete in 2009 due to a knee injury. I didn’t want to stop throwing and I wanted to give it one last shot so I moved to Phoenix to train with Godina. Financially it was very hard to make the move across the country. But with the help of the Olympic Gold Quest and my parents I managed to survive, Vikas said.
Training at the Godina centre has helped me immensely. My technique has gotten a lot better and physically,I am a lot stronger than I ever was. If I didn’t do well at the Delhi Commonwealth Games I would probably have had to stop throwing because financially the burden is too heavy. But I competed well (silver; 63.69m) and I knew I can perform at the highest level, Vikas said.
Subsequent medals have proved that this mathematics graduate has got his formula for success right,in the run up to the London Games.