Odds are you may have never heard of Srinivasa Gowda.
The 28-year-old has lived a relatively unheralded life as a construction worker in Karnataka, in south-west India.
However, some Indian athletics insiders suggest he’s destined for the Olympic stage, after vision of him besting Usain Bolt’s world-leading 100-metre time of 9.58 seconds went viral.
Only one tiny problem: Gowda’s effort was assisted by two rampaging buffalo.
The man you see sprinting like Usain Bolt in this video – Srinivas Gowda – has been contacted by Sports Authority of India upon seeing his power in Buffalo Race. His rail ticket is done
— Manjinder S Sirsa (@mssirsa) February 15, 2020
Gowda was participating in the Indian sport of ‘Kambala’ – an annual competition where strong-willed (or downright reckless) jockeys tie themselves to a pair of steeds and race down a 145-metre sodden track that resembles a paddy field.
He stormed away from his opponent in the annual event, sprinting down the course in a time of 13.62 seconds to record the traditional sport’s fastest-ever time.
But it was his 100m split that attracted the attention of national athletics selectors.
9.55 seconds, or 0.03 seconds faster than the eight-time Olympic gold medallist’s benchmark.
The comparisons with the Jamaican speedster were instantaneous, as media outlets and even the country’s politicians rushed to herald a new national hero.
Yes @PMuralidharRao ji. Officials from SAI have contacted him. His rail ticket is done and he will reach SAI centre on monday. I will ensure top national coaches to conduct his trials properly. We are team @narendramodi ji and will do everything to identity sporting talents! https://t.co/RF7KMfIHAD
— Kiren Rijiju (@KirenRijiju) February 15, 2020
And now, India’s sports ministry is seeking to capitalise on his potential, calling up Gowda to train with the country’s premier sprint coaches with the hope his natural gift can reap global success.
“Yes @PMuralidharRao ji. Officials from SAI have contacted him. His rail ticket is done and he will reach SAI centre on Monday,” Union Minister Kiren Rijiu tweeted.
“I will ensure top national coaches to conduct his trials properly.”
But the runner has downplayed the head-spinning expectations – after all, the runaway momentum of two hulking buffalo played no small part in his superhuman effort.
“People are comparing me to Usain Bolt. He is a world champion, I am only running in a slushy paddy field,” Gowda told news organisation ANI.