BENGALURU: So close, yet so far. It would be an apt phrase to describe Avinash Sable’s Olympics debut in the 3000m steeplechase at Tokyo on Friday. In an event, where 15 athletes make it to the medal round, the Indian, who finished seventh in his heat with a timing of 8:18.12s — a new national record — was the 13th fastest, but he still missed the elusive finals spot.
How? As per the qualification rules, top three finishers from the three heats are automatic qualifiers and the remaining six are awarded to the best six non-automatic qualifiers. Interestingly, his timing was better than the top three athletes in the third heat. When it came to the last six spots, he had seventh-best timing, which meant he was out. The lady luck was not by his side. “I guess we have to say that Avinash was quite unlucky as he could make it to the finals of the event. But, performance-wise I am quite happy with what he achieved.” Amrish Kumar, Sable’s coach, told this daily from Tokyo.
Sable gave his best and was even pushing others in the heat around him. At one point of time — mid race — he even came from behind and led for a very brief period as he realised that the pace was quite slow. “If the race would get slow, it would have been bad for us (timing wise) so he also picked up pace and led also,” explained the coach. The pain of coming so close and missing out on the finals must be there, but Sable can walk around with his head held high. Sable has always delivered on the track for the last couple of years.
In fact, Sable, who bettered his own national record, has made a habit of breaking records. Be it the Worlds or domestic competitions, his timings have only improved after every competition. From the 2018 nationals to the last Federation Cup in March, he has broken the national record multiple times. And when he broke his own record in Tokyo once again, it just goes to show that he is not overawed by the big occasion.
"In whatever competitions he participates in, he is improving and creating records. When one competes at the top-most level like the Olympics here, not everyone can come up with a good performance. People also tend to get afraid, that was not the case with him," said Kumar.
What makes his Olympics debut even more special is the fact that Sable had to miss out on some important training in the lead up to the quadrennial event. He was tested positive for Covid-19 late April when he was at his peak of preparations and that break in momentum with strict quarantine measures in place did not help his case.
But, there is no point thinking of what has happened in the past. As per the coach, Sable will have a mini break, and will resume training to prepare him for big events like the Worlds and the Asian Games next year.