Steeplechaser Avinash Sable was one of the first Indian track and field athletes to make the cut for the Olympics when he clocked 8 minutes and 21.37 seconds at the 2019 Doha World Championships. But he did not sit on his laurels.
The army man from the arid Beed district of Maharashtra broke the national record for the fifth time in his career clocking 8:20.21s and rewriting his previous best achieved in Doha.
Congratulations to Avinash Sable for creating another national record! Avinash has already qualified for Tokyo Olympics. He set a new national record in men’s 3000m steeplechase with a timing of 8:20.20 at the Federation Cup in Patiala. He broke his own record of 8:21.37 pic.twitter.com/t6W4yykrQu
— Kiren Rijiju (@KirenRijiju) March 17, 2021
The 26-year-old runner began shattering national marks in 2018 when he rewrote Gopal Saini’s 37-year-old record.
The Tokyo-bound runner is confident about breaking the record for a sixth time. “I am yet to hit my peak. I will increase the intensity of training gradually so that during the Games I can perform at my optimal level. I am really glad that I could rewrite my national record again for the fifth time but this won’t be the last,” said the runner who has improved by nine seconds since September 2018.
Despite the faster time, the runner has always felt like being at a disadvantage because of not having other athletes of his caliber to train with. His personal coach and fellow army man Amrish Kumar had to ride a motorbike or a cycle ahead of him during training to mimic a fast-paced runner.
“Meri bhi exercise hojati thi. ( I also burnt some calories). We don’t have that level of runners in the country. So I cycle at a pace that normally world-class runners would run at while Sable would follow,” coach Amrish told The Indian Express.
Sable has been training under Amrish since 2016 and recently Nikolai Snesarev was assigned to overlook the middle and long-distance campers, including Sable. But the 72-year-old coach from Belarus passed away earlier this month.
“We were going to work together on Sable. But unfortunately, he is no more. We had been training at Ooty and later moved to Bengaluru. Right now the intensity of training is only 80 per cent since we need to preserve him for the Olympics. He will definitely break the national record again,” the coach said.
Avinash Sable betters his 3000m steeplechase NR with a timing of 8:20.20 at the Federation Cup. He bettered the previous mark of 8:21.37 set in 2019.#IndianAthletics @afiindia pic.twitter.com/ywQgU5ERBX
— Naveen Peter (@peterspeaking) March 17, 2021
India’s little Kenya
Amrish says the primary reason for selecting Sable in 2016, a full-time sepoy then, was because he was from “India’s little Kenya”, the Beed district of Maharashtra known for its scorching heat. “The moment I got to know he is from Beed my interest in him grew. That is a very dry and tough region to live in. People sometimes have to manage a day without water. People from that region are naturally strong and have excellent endurance,” coach Amrish explained.
Sable grabbed on to the opportunity to become a full-time athlete. “You cannot compare this Sable to the one I recruited in 2016. He did not even know what steeplechase was. I decided to take the risk of training him primarily because of the region he comes from. During the initial trials, he showed great endurance and that is what is needed in this discipline,” said Amrish.
With time running out before the Olympics, Sable is eager to train overseas with athletes in Kenya or Morocco. “I want to practice with the best in the world and that is the only way I can push myself and improve my timings further. If I cannot go we should probably experiment by inviting a few of them to train with us in India. In Kenya they have dozens of such athletes who can help us,” said Sable.
Neeraj throws 87-metre plus
Star javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, who recently bettered his national record, managed an 87.80m throw in his final attempt. The Haryana athlete, who has already qualified for the Games, said he was satisfied with the day’s performance and would like to gradually better his distance.
“I regularly hit the 84m mark at practice but my best throws come at competitions. I will try to improve my distance in the upcoming competitions and eventually try to breach the 90m mark,” he said.