Vikas Gowda never bawled as a kid, his father Shive says, recalling how relieved they were as parents to have an exceptionally quiet baby- a big baby, at that.
The 6’9 ½” refuses to cry hoarse even now when the big man of world athletics — he’s the tallest thrower — checks into the Commonwealth Games village at Glasgow, and stares at a peculiar problem wryly, before telling himself — ‘it’s ok. I’ll adjust.’
In front of the 2.06 metre man, is a typically average-sized English bed, a Lilliputan futon for Glasgow’s Gulliver. “We always have problems if Games are held here — London was the same. You stay in the village, and it’s all uniform. In hotels, they can arrange for a king-size bed, and in America, usually everything is extra-large — food portions and even bed sizes,” father Shive says, a little worried about how his son will cope up.
“The beds are the main thing, he couldn’t sleep too well, the first two days. We tried putting out a mattress on the floor, but he’ll need to adjust as it is a standard Games village. He understands and won’t crib but he’d had a bad experience at the Daegu Worlds where a bad bed left him with a stiff back,” Shive says.
The hop across the Atlantic, for India’s premier discus thrower, who is desperate for gold at these Commonwealth Games, comes with another headache: the wispy showers that’ve been drizzling on Glasgow the last couple of days, along with a wet chill.
“Because Vikas is tall, and if the throwing circle gets wet, it can get difficult to balance for a big boy like him. Other smaller athletes might not be troubled as much,” he says.
Phoenix, Arizona, where the 30-year-old trains at the John Godina centre, is a desert, where it refuses to rain.
“It is a major adjustment and can affect by 10-20 per cent if it should rain, but he’s experienced,” Shive says.
But Shive’s biggest fear is that the gold, which Vikas ought to pick based on rankings, shouldn’t end up in a soggy mirage. Vikas had won India’s first silver in men’s throws at Delhi, followed by a bronze at the Asiad and making the finals of the London Olympics. “But this time, anything less than gold will be a disappointment,” says Shive.
Quiet urgency has been creeping up on the father-cum-coach this season, especially after Vikas raised hopes of a stunning season, starting well with a 64.47m at a World Challenge in Hengelo, The Netherlands. However, after a silver at a Diamond League event in New York (61.49), the distances have plateaued out.
“He’s worked hard but you can’t say. There’s 4-5 in the same 64-65 range. But he had a best of 65.62 this season, so I expected an upsurge, and that he might even hit 68-70. That hasn’t happened. Given how he began, I’m not satisfied,” Shive says, a tad worried.
Vikas cancelled competitions and went back into training trenches at the first hint of his performance flattening out.
“This gold medal is very very important,” Shive reiterates. On the practice schedule, was release velocity training, and power and speed aspects were sharpened. The reboot also tweaked his body position inside the circle. “I’m as curious as everyone else of the results of these tweakings,” he adds, after another training session on Monday ahead of the Thursday event.
Men’s discus is a bit tricky here, given it has the maverick Australian Benn Harradine who was the champ at Delhi. But given to such swings of form that you never know which Benn might turn up. He has three throws of 64-plus in elite competition this year, but isn’t the same athlete after his knee problems. He got onto Facebook and started a ‘Will it throw?’ contest to break training monotony, and followed up suggestions by throwing assortment of pies and a sock filled with Hummus.
There’s South African Victor Hoan and the younger Aussie Julian Wruck, as well as a pair of Jamaicans and Welsh Brett Morse (season best 64.84), though Vikas is known for his consistency at the big events. “I like to keep high expectations of him, and we wanted a 70m this season. But we’ll try to capture gold.”
On his son’s frame of mind, Shive Gowda reflects how neither of small beds or big showers can ruffle his focus now. “He’s very calm and doesn’t display emotion at all.
Sometimes it’s very annoying and hard to decipher him, as I’ll be screaming, and he’ll stay cool,” says the exasperated father. “As a kid we liked how quiet he was, now I wish he’d explode a little,” he adds.
Alternately, an almighty explosion of energy that fetches a gold medal at Glasgow, will do just fine.