A construction worker in south India is being compared to the Olympic gold medallist sprinter Usain Bolt after a record-breaking win in a buffalo race.

Srinivas Gowda, 28, was competing in Kambala, a sport from the southern state of Karnataka where people sprint 142m through paddy fields with buffalo.

Is this runner faster than Usain Bolt? Photo / Twitter.
Is this runner faster than Usain Bolt? Photo / Twitter.

Mr Gowda is said to have finished in 13.42 seconds, reportedly covering the first 100 metre in 9.55 seconds. That would be faster than Bolt, who holds the world 100m record of 9.58 seconds.

But the governing body for Kambala has warned against comparing him to Bolt.

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"We would not like to indulge in any comparison with others," Prof K Gunapala Kadamba, president of the Kambala Academy, told BBC Hindi.

"They [Olympic event monitors] have more scientific methods and better electronic equipment to measure speed."

Prof Kadamba's response came after several local newspapers and journalists made the comparison between Mr Gowda's performance and the Jamaican sprinter's world record time.

What is Kambala?

Kambala, which roughly translates to "paddy-growing mud field" in the local language Tulu, is a traditional sport originating from part of Karnataka's coast.

Participants sprint through a field, which is normally either 132m or 142m, with two buffalo that are tethered together.

It is controversial, and in the past the sport has attracted strong criticism from international animal rights groups.

In 2014, India's Supreme Court issued a ban on races with bulls, prompted primarily by campaigns against the practice of Jallikattu, a form of bull-fighting from the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu.

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Two years later, Karnataka's state court issued an interim order stopping all Kambala events.

Prof Kadamba said that the organising body had responded to this, updating the sport in order to make it more humane.

He said their current and former students - including Mr Gowda - are now taught how to deal with buffalo "in a humane manner without unnecessarily hurting the animal".

In 2018, the state started allowing Kambala races to take part again, but issued several conditions - including a ban on the use of whips.