Brawn, brain, gold!

One is a gigantic 6’ 9’’ and the other a slender 5’ 7”. But both Vikas Gowda and Parupalli Kashyap had a common cause and fought relentlessly to grab the gold. By A. Vinod.

Two gladiators, each vastly different from the other…one towering at 6’ 9” and weighing a good 140 kg; the other weighing only 67 kg and standing only at 5’ 7.” Yet, sharing a vision and hunger for success, fully prepared to make any sacrifices to get to their goal and serve their country with distinction in the global arena.

Small wonder then that the gigantic Vikas Gowda and the lithe Parupalli Kashyap came out as real heroes at the 20th Commonwealth Games, which after being such a fiesta for 12 days, concluded in Glasgow on August 3.

India, which finished fifth overall with a haul of 15 gold, 30 silver and 19 bronze medals for a total of 64, gained all the golds in the individual events, barring the one picked up by the Chennai pair of Dipika Pallikal and Joshna Chinappa. Dipika and Joshna with diligent play upset the top-seeded English pair of Jenny Duncalf and Laura Massaro (11-6, 11-8) to win the women’s doubles gold medal in squash and present the country with its first ever medal in the sport at the Commonwealth Games.

The fifth-seeded Indian duo had only a day earlier shocked the experienced Australian pairing of Kasey Brown and Rachael Grinham, the second seeds, 11-9, 7-11, 11-4 in the semifinals.

Though the contribution from Dipika and Joshna was remarkable and significant, what stood out in the case of Gowda and Kashyap was that their gold medals came in individual events, after a hard battle. Gowda’s victory was specially remarkable considering that he found the sudden change in weather conditions too agonising.

It was under a bright sun that this 31-year-old had quite easily met the qualification standard of 64m en route to the final of the men’s discus throw.

But as he returned to Hampden Park the next night, the fickle Glaswegian weather in all its fury had the Indian and his rivals in distress. A wet circle and field meant that the throwers would not only be inconvenienced in taking their two and a half twists to hurl the disc, but they would also have to deal with slippery equipment. And, indeed, what unfolded in such a situation was a nervy drama before Gowda came out blazing, upgrading his silver medal of four years ago in New Delhi to gold.

More importantly, what Gowda also achieved through his winning distance of 63.64m, off his third attempt, was to give India only its second gold medal in men’s athletics in the history of the Games.

And, to put it into perspective, it marked the end of a 56-year-old drought that the country had suffered after the legendary Milkha Singh’s memorable triumph in 440 yards at the 1958 Games in Cardiff.

Naturally, the U.S-based Indian, who had won the Asian title last year in Pune, was simply ecstatic. “No words can describe this. I am so happy as this has been on my calendar for the whole year. When I walked out and saw the rain I knew that it was going to disrupt a lot of people. But I had come well prepared for the rain, having trained in such inclement weather. I did train too with a wet ring as part of my preparations. Now it is over to the Asian Games and a couple of Diamond League meetings, so I will be going for the gold medal there too,” Gowda summed up.

Kashyap’s men’s singles gold medal in badminton on the final day of the Games, too, was hard fought and earned. It has been a hard season for this Vashi-born player, returning from an injury, which had laid him low almost right through last year. In Glasgow too, he had a tough time, first playing in the mixed team event before shifting focus to the singles. And as could only be expected, in his march to the title he could take only one match at a time. But what stood out in Kashyap’s campaign was the consistency he showed right through. His court craft was not that of a tired man while his strokes and net play were that of a true champion.

Only in the final — against Derek Wong (Singapore) — was the Indian stretched, though he had played three-set matches before. But Kashyap stood his ground well to win the match 21-14, 11-21, 21-19 and emulate the efforts of the peerless Prakash Padukone (Edmonton, 1978) and Syed Modi (Brisbane, 1982). This also meant that the gold medal in the event was coming back to India after a gap of 32 years.

It might just be a strange coincidence that Gowda and Kashyap had finished eighth in their respective events at the London Olympics in 2012.

And two years down the line, getting the opportunity to do their country proud, they came up with standout performances.