Kambala jockey Gowda visits SAI, expresses interest in pursuing athletics

Kambala jockey Srinivasa Gowda, who visited the SAI South Centre in Bengaluru, expressed his interest in taking part in athletics.

Kambala runner Srinivas Gowda.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Kambala jockey Srinivasa Gowda, who was invited for trials by the Sports Authority of India after rocketing to fame on social media, visited the SAI South Centre late here on Monday night. The 28-year-old did not take part in any trials or assessments, however, having stated that he would like to focus on his kambala commitments for another month.

"After that, he has to go through a period of conditioning. He may not be in that kind of a condition where we can straight away take him into the track," said Capt. (Indian Navy) Ajay Kumar Bahl, Senior Director, SAI South Centre.

READ | Kambala jockey Gowda's trial on hold, given time to acclimatise

While admitting that success in kambala -- a traditional sport in the south-western parts of Karnataka where competitors race buffaloes through paddy fields -- did not automatically mean success in athletics, the Director stated that the SAI was ready to assess him and offer any support required. "The dynamics of both are different. Here he is running barefoot, and there is a bull he needs to hold and run. Running on the track is a different ballgame. But all the facilities at SAI will be there to back him," he said.

C. Harish, athletics coach at the SAI, felt Gowda's athletic talent could not be dismissed out of hand. "Anand Shetty (former international sprinter) had also come from a kambala background. Many athletes have played different sports in their childhood before going on to succeed in something else. All sports are interlinked. We cannot say it's not possible. It need not be 100m alone. He seems to have strength and endurance," he pointed out.

This was a whirlwind day for Gowda, who in the afternoon met the Chief Minister at the Vidhana Soudha, where a cash prize of Rs.3 lakh was announced. "The credit does not belong to me; it belongs to the buffaloes and the owner of the buffaloes, who took good care of them. That's why they could go so fast," he told reporters. Gowda was asked if he was interested in taking part in athletics. "I'm interested, but for a month I will be focusing only on kambala," he said.