Frederick High School graduate Vikas Gowda's first of eight attempts in the final round of the 2012 Olympic discus competition would have been good for fifth place at last year's world championships.
The 64.79-meter mark was just 1.49 meters off his personal best 66.23 meters, a national record for India that he set in April at the Old Style Discus Challenge in Oklahoma.
On Aug. 7 in London it was good for eighth place in the 12-man final. It was the first time in Gowda's three Olympic appearances that he reached the final round, and he became just the seventh Indian to reach the ultimate round of an Olympic track and field competition.
Germany's Robert Harting won the gold medal with a throw of 68.27 meters.
“The competition was unbelievable,” Gowda said. “It was probably the best Olympic discus throw competition I've ever seen. The guys were throwing really far early and usually that takes a couple rounds.”
Though Gowda's ultimate goal is to reach the Olympic podium and become the first Indian man to win an Olympic field event, his consistent performance at this summer's Olympics was a positive step.
Five of the 6-foot-9, 308-pound Gowda's eight throws in the final round were among the farthest he's thrown this year, or ever, he said.
Now based in Arizona, Gowda has only been training at full strength for a little more than two years.
In the fall of 2008 he had surgery to repair damage to his left knee and then suffered with severe tendinitis in his right knee for more than a year.
In December 2009 he relocated to Arizona to train at the world-renowned John Godina World Throws Center in Phoenix. The Oklahoma-born Godina is a two-time Olympic medalist in the shot put.
Gowda, who on June 9 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, finally began training at full strength for the Olympics in January 2010.
In that time he's added about 4.5 meters to his throw.
“In 2008 I threw 60.69. And I've been training for less than three years. There are a couple technical things that if I fix would definitely put me in medal contention [at the 2016 Olympics],” Gowda said. “I was a lot more consistent [in London]. The main thing now is to sit down and figure out how I'm going to fix these things and that will definitely help me improve.”
Since moving to Arizona, Gowda has tweaked his motion into a much smoother one with longer strides. He said adjustments to his rhythm and release would take him to an even higher level.
Discus throwers, Gowda said, don't tend to peak until their early 30s. At 29 he said he is just entering his prime.
After returning home from a hectic two weeks Monday night, Gowda is headed back to Europe next week for the four final Diamond League competitions, held in Switzerland, Great Britain and Belgium.
Then, he said, it's back to off-season training in mid-September.
The 2016 Rio Olympics are four years away. Setting smaller goals along the way, Gowda said, will be important to his progress.
More importantly, Gowda hopes he will be joined there by even more Indian athletes.
This year the country sent its biggest contingent, 83 athletes in 13 sports. India's six medals were the most the nation has won at an Olympic competition.
“I got a lot of emails and Facebook messages, mostly from India about how happy they were to see me in the final,” Gowda said. “To be [the seventh] Indian ever to reach the final of a track and field event is something special. I think if I can keep doing better and better, it's getting more publicity, in the next couple of years there will be some really good Indian athletes.”