A shot in the arm

K. MURALIKUMAR

“I have worked hard for 15 years and wins like these in front of home crowd makes all the sacrifices special,” says Vikas Gowda. By Nandakumar Marar.

India’s discus thrower Vikas Gowda has always run into Iranians in competitions. Ehsan Hadadi, the silver medallist at the London Olympics, is well ahead of him. “I look forward to competing with him. He spurs me on and we push each other,” said the Indian, ranked World No. 7, three places behind the Iranian, in the IAAF list.

Hadadi skipped the Asian Athletics Championship in Pune and instead took part in the Diamond League. Gowda, however, had to contend with another Iranian, Mohammed Samimi, at the Balewadi Stadium. “The Iranians are tough. There is pressure always from inside you and externally. I have been through many such situations. I try to shut it out and concentrate,” said Gowda.

A two-time silver medal winner at the AAC, Gowda struck gold this time by producing a big throw when it mattered most. The Indian, who had flown in from the United States as the favourite (he had a season’s best of 65.82m and a career-best effort of 66.28m), hurled the discus to 64.90m for the gold and then flew to Paris for the Diamond League.

“Things didn’t work well for me initially; my first throw wasn’t good and second hit the cage. I wasn’t getting my balance right. Then I found out that there was a hole in my shoe. I changed it (shoe) after the second round and it worked. You are really tested in such moments; if you have worked hard, you can come through. It is not always that you come close to your personal best in a major event. I almost touched 65m,” Gowda said.

Samimi won the silver, clearing 61.93m. It showed the gulf between Hadadi and fellow Iranians.

Mohammed Ahmed of Qatar (60.82m) finished third.

“I will always remember this gold, along with the Commonwealth Games silver. I have worked hard for 15 years and wins like these in front of home crowd makes all the sacrifices special,” remarked the AAC discus throw champion.

Gowda trains in the United States at John Godina’s World Throws Centre in Arizona. The Olympic Gold Quest funds him.

A fourth place in the Paris Diamond League with 64.45m (behind Germany’s Robert Harting, 67.04m, Hadadi, 65.53m, and Estonia’s Gerd Kanter, 65.30m) puts the 30-year-old in the range of the leaders and in the right shape to continue preparations for his next major event, the World Athletics Championship in Moscow (August 10-18). “I would like to dedicate this medal to my parents, who have worked as hard as me and sacrificed a lot for my success. My dad (coach Shive Gowda) instilled in me a work ethic that helps me perform in big meets,” said the champion.

“I am still in training and my body is not 100 per cent fresh. I need to rest a bit and then will be able to do better,” he added.