Karnataka Kambala buffalo jockey Srinivas Gowda’s run draws comparison with Usain Bolt

Kambala runner Srinivas Gowda from Moodbidri in Dakshina Kannada district   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

A feverish sprint with a pair of buffaloes in tow has catapulted Srinivas Gowda from tiny Ashwathpura in coastal Karnataka to national fame.

On February 1, Mr. Gowda, competing in a kambala event — a traditional race in which the jockey runs along with the buffaloes he is shepherding — covered 142.5 m in 13.62 seconds at the Aikala-Bava kambala near Moodbidri. Converting this into 100m sprint, sports buffs said the kambala runner had clocked 9.55 seconds, just a wee bit ahead of Jamaican Usain Bolt’s world record of 9.58 seconds!

The news spread as fast as Mr. Gowda’s pulse-pounding run, and it soon went viral on Twitter.

Mahindra Group chairman Anand Mahindra suggested that Union Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports Kiren Rijiju could provide training facilities for the runner.

The Sports Authority of India (SAI) stepped in and said a suitable course would be devised for Mr. Gowda.

The 28-year-old has been a kambala jockey for more than a decade and trained at the Kambala Academy in Moodbidri in 2011. Founder and convener of the Academy K. Gunapala Kadamba told The Hindu that though his run was electrifying, Mr. Gowda’s feat cannot be compared to an Olympic record as these are diverse events held in varied conditions. While Olympic sprints are judged over seconds, kambala is yet to evolve such a practice.

Mr. Kadamba said while the finishing-time at the kambala was accurately calculated through laser beams and electronic timers, similar technology is yet to be evolved at the starting-point. He, however, added that international organisations are welcome to test the endurance and speed of kambala runners.

Mr. Gowda is the jockey for three pairs of buffaloes that run in different categories. Creating the ‘record’ is a significant achievement as he would have run at least 22 times with three pairs of buffaloes through the course of the entire event, exhibiting sustained endurance.

A construction worker off season, Mr. Gowda said he starts training the buffaloes four weeks before the kambala season. Without any formal physical training, he has exhibited supreme endurance. Sources said jockeys like Mr. Gowda are paid ₹1 lakh-₹2 lakh by owners for a season to train the buffaloes, besides sharing cash prizes they win in kambalas.

For now, before SAI steps in with its offer of formal training, Mr. Gowda’s name is up there in the bright lights with the iconic Bolt, at least in the online space.

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Printable version | Apr 14, 2021 8:24:09 PM |

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