Focussed on Olympic qualification not medal, says Avinash Sable

Avinash Sable talks about the records he bettered at the World Championships, his Tokyo 2020 qualification and the strategy he adopted to tick both boxes.

India's Avinash Sable in action in the men's 3000m steeplechase event at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha on Tuesday.   -  Reuters

Avinash Sable made history on Friday as he claimed his berth at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics by beating his own national record in the men's 3000m steeplechase final in the IAAF World Athletics Championships.

Looking back at his performance, the Indian said he focussed on qualifying for the Tokyo Games, knowing fully well that a podium finish was difficult.

The Olympic qualification mark was set at 8:22:00 and Avinash managed to qualify for the 2020 Olympics with a record timing, his second national record in three days, which was 0.63s quicker than the alloted mark. He also bettered his own national record of 8:25.23 which he clocked on Tuesday during the first round heats.

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“I knew it was going be really tough to win a medal or finish in top 5 or 6. I focussed on qualifying for the Olympics,” he told PTI from Doha.

He added: “I am feeling very happy to be taking part in my first Olympics in Tokyo next year. Every athlete would want to win a medal but if not my aim is to be among the top five or six. That is why I focussed on Olympic qualification first so that I can prepare well in the next 8-9 months. That was the plan my coach (Amrish Kumar who is also in Doha) and I had.”

Avinash also stressed on the fact that he had to shorten his timings to ensure he remains in contention for a top-6 spot in the Olympics. “I need to cut down at least 12 seconds and run below 8 minutes 10 seconds by the time of Tokyo Olympics. That is my target,” he said.

Asked why he was not trying to catch up with the leading pack during the race, he said: “I was running at my pace thinking of the Olympic qualification. I was not thinking much about the other runners. I was running according to the time I want to clock.”

His record timing was in fact his fourth national record in one year. His first national record (8:29.80) was set in September last year during the National Open in Bhubaneswar while the second came in March this year during the Federation Cup in Patiala. During this period, he made an improvement of nearly eight-and-a-half seconds.

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He made it to Friday’s final in dramatic circumstances after he initially failed to make the cut in the heat races on Tuesday. He was later included as finalists after the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) successfully protested that he was obstructed by other athletes during the heat race.

“I would like to thank the AFI for the prompt protest. I got a lot of support from the AFI officials. After the race, they told me not to worry and I will be able to race in the finals. Ultimately, the protest was successful and I owe this result to the AFI,” he said.