From racing with buffaloes on the Karnataka coast to walking up the steps of the Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru to meet the Chief Minister, Srinivas Gowda has come a long way very fast. The power of social media, combined with catchy headlines comparing him to Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, has helped catapult Srinivas Gowda from the muddy Kambala fields to the centre of national attention.
Kambala, a buffalo-racing event popular in coastal Karnataka, was banned by the Supreme Court in 2014 on the grounds of cruelty to animals after critics claimed that being made to race down fields while being whipped was causing a lot of stress and injury to the animals. The sport was permitted again in 2017, and last month, a video of Srinivas Gowda running at breakneck speed alongside his pair of buffaloes was spread widely on the Internet.
The video seemed to show him running 142.5 metres in 13.62 seconds during the traditional race on a paddy field in Mangalore's Kadri, a performance that drew comparisons with Usain Bolt himself. Political leaders tweeted about his potential, and Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju even promised trials and training by the Sports Authority of India.
I'll call Karnataka's Srinivasa Gowda for trials by top SAI Coaches. There's lack of knowledge in masses about the standards of Olympics especially in athletics where ultimate human strength & endurance are surpassed. I'll ensure that no talents in India is left out untested. https://t.co/ohCLQ1YNK0— Kiren Rijiju (@KirenRijiju) February 15, 2020
The media attention has worked wonders for the young racer. After running on the muddy fields alongside his buffaloes, Srinivas Gowda dropped by the Vidhana Soudha on Monday to be felicitated by Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa.
"I am very happy. The chief minister has called me over to meet him. I am very happy with this recognition for Kambala. Since I was young, I have trained to run in the mud. If the buffaloes had run faster, I would have run even faster than this. The main role is that of the buffaloes we run alongside. To run faster, the buffalo also needs to be trained," Srinivas Gowda told NDTV.
The 28-year-old was given a cheque of Rs 3 lakh. However, he still has his feet firmly set on the muddy fields of home, and is in no hurry to swap them for an athletic track.
When NDTV sought Srinivas Gowda's response to the offer of trials and formal training by the Sports Authority of India, he said: "The Kambala will go on for another month. Then I will need a month's rest. We have to run 142 metres 35 times. It is difficult and tiring, and we need rest. I will take a decision after that."