Discus thrower Vikas Gowda is gunning for a hat-trick of gold medals in the Asian Athletics Championship in Bhubaneshwar and in an ideal scenario would have been the toast of the event in India. But instead, the 34-year-old will have to prove himself all over again when he takes his stance at the throwing ring later on Thursday.

Gowda, the most recognisable face in Indian track and field, had to undergo two trials in quick succession and must have spent many anxious hours before the Athletics Federation of India finally gave him a go ahead to compete in the bi-annual event.

AFI had asked Gowda to prove his fitness and form after he skipped the Federation Cup or the national trials and had competed in just one tournament internationally.

Though the procedure seems routine on the face of it, those in the know are aware of the undercurrents behind the delay in taking a final decision. Gowda has been training in the United States for almost a decade now and has never participated in national level tournaments.

While the AFI never really liked this approach, the consistency of his performance and the fact that he was way ahead of competition in the country allowed him to keep participating in the big events.

But all that changed when the 34-year-old turned up under-prepared for the Rio Olympics, for which he was funded under the Target Olympic Podium Scheme, due to a shoulder injury about which he kept the authorities in the dark for a considerable period.

Even during the two trials in Bhubaneshwar, the Mysore-born athlete failed to clear a distance of 58 meters, which is way below his best of 66.28 metres.

Gowda’s throw in the trials, albeit below par, put him in the top three Indians which should have automatically entailed a starting spot. The selection committee finally cleared him but it was very clear that the selectors or the officials were not really pleased with what they saw.

CK Valson, the AFI secretary, had spoken to The Field, prior to his second trial and had cited fitness issues as the reasons behind the trials, “He has not participated in the Federation Cup or national trials and hence, the coaches wanted to see him throw. It is a decision exclusively taken by the Selection Committee.”

But AFI’s grouse with the thrower, extends way beyond this event.

An official speaking on grounds of anonymity said, “You can’t just show up to the Olympics or the Asian meets without participating in the nationals first. This is not allowed anywhere else in the world. Why should we?”

Another wasn’t too pleased with Gowda’s failure to report an injury prior to the Olympics, “When we asked athletes to report their injuries, he said no. Even his coach lied to us, said no. When one of our officials went to meet him in Arizona, that’s when we found out about the injury that he was carrying.”

It would seem that this discontent has been brewing between the AFI and Gowda for some time now. For Gowda, a strong field complete with Malaysian Muhammad Irfan and Iranian Ehsan Haddadi awaits as he aims to clinch a spot in the IAAF World Championships 2017 in London. His detractors, including those in the AFI, will be waiting to pounce on any misstep.