Srinivasa Gowda, 28, a Kambala jockey from Moodabidri near Mangaluru became an overnight sensation as he shattered a three-decades-old record and registered himself as the fastest sprinter in the history of Kambala, the traditional sport of the coastal region by achieving a breathtaking feat of covering a distance of 142.50 meters in just 13.62 seconds.
Kambala is an annual festival celebrated in the southwestern state of Karnataka. The festival includes the traditional buffalo race, a popular and unique sport among the farming community of the state. Enthusiastic farmers and villagers hire jockeys to train their buffaloes for participating in the Kambala festival season which starts in November and lasts till March. The jockeys get a fee of Rs 1-2 lakhs for training the buffaloes and participating in the various Kambala contests. Cash rewards are also given to the jockeys by the owners if their buffaloes win the contest.
Gowda set the new record at a Kambala event held in Aikala village, about 30 Kilometres from Manguluru. 141 metres in 13.25 seconds at near 133.5 metres was covered in 12.48 seconds.
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Srinivasa Gowda’s spectacular achievement of covering 142.5 meters in just 13.62 seconds in a slushy field that acts as a deterrence to jockey’s speed was compared with the legendary Jamaican athlete Usain Bolt. In 2009 Berlin World Athletics Championships, Bolt set a world record of completing 100-metres race in 9.58 seconds, while 142.5 meters in 13.62 seconds, it was calculated that he covered 100 metres in just 9.55 seconds, which becomes 3 seconds faster than Bolt’s record. Although sprinting timings can’t be directly compared this way, this record is being hailed by people with that comparison and they say that Gowda should be trained for the Olympics.
In a first in the history of Kambala, Gowda bagged prizes in all four categories at the event held in Aikala. Gowda won three prizes each in a couple of other Kambala events. According to one of the referees of the Aikala Kambala, Vijay Kumar Kanginamane, Gowda is on a record-breaking spree during the current Kambala season and has won 29 prizes in the 12 Kambalas he had participated in during the ongoing Kambala season.
Gowda, a school drop-out, has a day job as a construction worker during the off-season. He claimed that since his childhood days, he was piqued by watching the buffalo races and started pursuing his passion 5-6 years ago. When asked about his record, Gowda was modest to credit his buffalos for the magnificent achievement. “I love Kambala. The credit of my success should also go to my two buffalos. They ran very well. I chased them,” he said.