It’s not the downpour Vikas Gowda feared, it was the annoyingly trickling drizzle at Hampden Park. Likewise, it was not that the 6’9” giant was wary of how things would pan out at the big tournaments – the Olympics, Asiad and Commonwealth Games, it’s the lesser meets in smaller towns with trailer parks and tiny beds that had sent him into an orbit of anguishing these last six weeks.
Finding himself trailing by the third round of throws, Gowda, India’s strongest and most resilient athlete, launched a winner into orbit at 63.64 metres, to claim for himself a medal he richly deserved after all the frustrating average distances he thought he’d been hurling this season.
“CWG gold was something I always wanted to do,” he said, after getting a roaring applause from the Hampden Park and grinning a genial goofy grin, as the national anthem rung out in the most stunning of venues at Glasgow.
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“It was my only thought for 7-8 months. Every second.”
The weather was a worry for the big man, 30, who needed to blend balance with explosive power even as the British rains kept poking the face, and wetting the throwing circle. “I’d prepared for every rainy situation. But this was worse than I thought, the drizzle.” He’d braved the downpour in Japan last year, and dug deep into that seeping experience to come out in this tricky one where two throwers flung 63-plus in rainy conditions.
“I have to connect with the ground and keep my grip and then connect with the discus and not let it slip. Was under some pressure after trailing, but it was all about staying patient,” he said.
Breathing right, breathing slow, clutching the discus smooth – not too hard, for that detonating release.
Mopping up operation
He came wearing two differently gripped shoes, both Size 15 – in two colours – like the footballers this World Cup, and mopped his throwing circle with a large towel and got down to what he’s been training for. “Delhi silver will be special, but this is gold,” he beamed.
Unlike others who stay consistent over the season, but botch the biggies, Gowda was intent that this one be no less than gold. “I thought I was dipping, so we went into rebuilding back at camp. The process was stressful, but I stayed patient and executed the rain-throw well,” he said.
Sleep had been in fits and starts this last few months, as the CWG loomed on the horizon. Gowda, a finalist at the London Games, came wearing the Olympics jersey, full-sleeved, “one in which I am very comfortable. Unless something happens I’ll continue wearing this,” he laughed.
Olympics in Beijing was where his fightback from injuries began. “Olympic Gold Quest saved my career,” he says, adding he’d come off the 2008 Games with a messed up back and dodgy knees.
“They set it up at John Godina’s throws centre at Phoenix. For 3-4 years from 2007-9, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue throws because I felt washed out. OGQ bridged the gap,” he recalls.
The last two weeks he’s been working with sports psychologist Marc Strictland just to focus right. “I was ok in big events, but I would be inconsistent in training and that would add to my anxiety,” he said. In fact the last one week, his father Shive Gowda had spoken about how his whole career till now could be scrunched into this one evening.
“Sometimes I get too anxious, and speed it up. Today the patience worked,” he smiled. His mother would watch the final in Washington on BBC’s live streaming, and rest of the extended family was spread all over.
“I’ll relax now. Not think for a while. Come watch some competitions here tomorrow,” he said, and eat for taste buds not the stomach – which needs 3500 calories a day to summon that strength. “It’s usually 6 eggs, hash browns , I love milk. But I had no appetite since I landed here,” he said.
Over the weekend after he fetched India its 13th gold and helped keep the 6th position on table standings as the gold medals dry for the country, he can eat and relish what’s put on the plate. Also, notice what he’s eating.