Vikas Gowda is headed to his third consecutive Olympics, representing his native India. The 2001 Frederick High School graduate said this time around feels just as special as the first two, though his experience will make it a lot less overwhelming.
Gowda said he's hoping the ability to remain relaxed could help him reach the podium in the discus throw.
His 15th-place finish in preliminaries was just outside the 12-person cut at the 2004 Games, and he finished 22nd in the qualifying rounds in Beijing four years ago.
“[The 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece] was pretty overwhelming. I had never competed overseas before. I was still in college, had just turned 21,” Gowda said. “Now I know what kind of routine works and how to take care of myself.”
Taking proper care of his 6-foot-9, 308-pound frame is something Gowda has learned to do only recently since moving in December of 2009 to train at the world-renowned John Godina World Throws Center in Phoenix.
At the time Gowda was in a four-year slump looking for some direction. He had surgery to repair damage to his left knee in the fall of 2008 and had been plagued by tendonitis in his right knee since.
With an open mind, he allowed the Oklahoma-born Godina, a two-time Olympic medallist in the shot put, to tweak his throwing motion.
“I was not throwing well, 2006-09 were hard for me,” Gowda said. “You keep trying harder and harder and then you keep making the same mistakes. If I want to do something, I want to do it right. Until I get to the point where I don't know if I can get any better, that will be the day that I walk away. Once you know what you're doing and you figure it out, after a year or so it's kind of ingrained [in your muscles] and you kind of go on autopilot.”
It is this relatively new and more-relaxed motion, with longer and smoother strides, that has recently catapulted the Mysore-born 28-year-old to the upper echelon of discus throwing.
Throwers, Gowda said, don't tend to peak until they're around 30, meaning he is entering his prime.
It takes time for throwers to grow into their typically tall frames and to build the proper technique.
Last summer Gowda finished seventh at the World Championships in South Korea.
In April he set an Indian national record with a 217.454-foot throw at the Old Style Discus Challenge in Oklahoma.
And June 9 he won India's first-ever International Association of Athletics Federation Diamond League medal with a third-place finish at the Adidas Grand Prix in New York.
Though he's spent most of his life in the United States, Gowda said he is Indian first and foremost and promoting his sport back home has been a career highlight.
His father Shive was an Olympic decathlon coach for India.
“I always said if I ever reached this level, I would do it for India,” Gowda said. “In the U.S. there are hundreds of people who win gold medals. For India, it's only a handful of people and it has a tremendous impact. They really value [your accomplishments] and it really helps promote the sport.”