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Gowda's Olympic fantasy nearing reality

July 01, 2004|by ANDY MASON

andrewm@herald-mail.com

If there were such a game as Fantasy Tri-State Track & Field and we were drafting athletes for all-time high school teams, I might want Vikas Gowda for my first-round pick.

Gowda, a 2001 Frederick High graduate, won seven Maryland state titles for the Cadets and is the Tri-State's all-time prep leader in the discus and shot put. He'd be worth big fantasy points.

If there were such a game as Fantasy Indian Track & Field, Gowda might go No. 1 overall. After talking with him and his father and mentor, Shive Gowda, you just get the feeling that the big points are coming.

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"You're going to see more and more about him in the coming days," Shive said. "He's getting more and more mature and stronger."

The 6-foot-9, 270-pound Gowda, who turns 21 next week, recently qualified for the Athens Olympics. He will throw the discus for India, the country in which he was born and in which his citizenship still lies.

Gowda, who has completed his junior year at the University of North Carolina, broke his own Indian record in the discus with an Olympic 'A' standard throw of 211 feet, 1 inch at the Hartnel College Throws Invitational in Salinas, Calif., in May. He previously set the national record with a 'B' standard mark of 206-7 in April. Last spring, Gowda, who redshirted this spring, set the UNC school record at 194-7 and placed fifth at the NCAA championships.

Now, he's ranked 24th in the world - with a throw that's less than 3 feet off China's Shaojie Li's all-time Asian record (213-9).

"It's the natural trend of improvement," Vikas Gowda said. "This is something I've been expecting."

His father has expected it, too. And the father and son have even larger expectations. They always have.

That explains why, when the Gowdas moved to America 15 years ago, they never even tried to make young Vikas a naturalized U.S. citizen.

"I planned well," said Shive Gowda, India's top decathlete in the early '80s and the country's jumping coach in the late '80s. "I had that vision, that one day I'd prepare him for this level.

"Nobody from India has ever won a track and field gold medal at the Olympics. That's our main goal. He has a fairly good chance, maybe not at this one, but at the next Olympics. This will be a good experience. The next Olympics, we'll go all out for."

Thirty-two-year-old Lithuanian Virgilijus Alekna currently has the world's top discus mark of the year at 232-10. Only one performer listed above Gowda on the International Association of Athletics Federations leaderboard is younger than 21. Most are in their late-20s and early-30s.

"I'm probably going to be the youngest one (at the Olympics)," Gowda said. "I just want to do my best, get the experience, compete well and see what happens. ... This is the biggest stage possible. You can't get any bigger than this."

That's why an Olympic gold can be worth spending a lifetime pursuing.

"That's what I've been working for since I've been 8," Gowda said.

Obviously, this is much more than just some fantasy.




Andy Mason is assistant sports editor of The Morning Herald. His column appears every other Thursday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2334, or by e-mail at andrewm@herald-mail.com

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