Avinash Sable finally ended the Kenyan hegemony in the men’s 3000m steeplechase at the Commonwealth Games – the East African nation had monopolised the CWG podium since 1988 – to win a silver medal with a time of 8:11.20 at the Alexander Stadium.
Sable, separated from gold medal winner Kenya’s Abraham Kibiwot by five microseconds, was disappointed at missing out on the chance to be at the top of the podium and hear the national anthem.
“I have won the silver medal, but I regret that it was a matter of a few centimetres. I didn’t do that well while getting over the last two hurdles. If that had worked, it would have been the best thing ever,” Sable said.
In about eight hours he would be back on the track to participate in the men’s 5000m event. But the media still needed to hear from him.
Sable, who has been on a national record-breaking spree since the Federation Cup in March 2019, bettered his best performance for the ninth time, improving on his 8:12.48 achieved at the Rabat Diamond League in June this year.
“Till the last 2000m, my plan was to follow the Kenyans (Abraham Kibiwot, Amos Serem and Conseslus Kipruto) closely. Just when we entered the last two kilometres, I started to try and move ahead. But I fumbled in the last water jump as the guy in front of me came a bit on the outside. It is completely okay, can’t complain. For a moment I thought, ‘Arey, kya bhaag raha hai wo?’ (How is he running?) And I was just behind him. I couldn’t understand where he would go. It was my error,” Sable said, explaining what was going on in his head during the race.
Gold medallist Kibiwot also heaped praise on Sable. After the race, they hugged each other and Kibiwot tapped Sable’s shoulder and pointed towards the screen to probably break the news to the Indian that he had just registered his PB.
“We have had several races together. I decided to increase my pace in the last lap. I didn’t know he was following my pace. He is very, very strong. I was seeing him come closer on the screen,” the Kenyan said.
Serem, who finished with the bronze medal, said, “The race was good. But what can I say? I am very happy. He (Sable) was very invested in the last 300m.”
Sable came into this race after a disappointing 11th place finish in the recently concluded World Athletics Championships in Oregon, where he got stuck in a speed trap, never to recover. It was Sable’s slowest race since October 2019 and the Maharashtra athlete said the result gave him sleepless nights.
“Only I know how I have spent the last 15-20 days. I started getting calls from people saying these things keep happening. But I became depressed and stopped talking to people, replied to nobody. I wasn’t happy with the race. I felt the government won’t be happy with me since they sent me abroad to train,” he said.
“I am still sad that I couldn’t take the World Championships medal. Everybody was going so slow. I was just thinking, ‘I would have to win a medal. When the other athletes are moving so slowly, why should I spend more energy and tire my system?’ And I got stuck behind the cluster and could never push.”
Sable stepped back after the race at Hayward Field to pause and reassess his situation.
“I locked myself up in my room, lost sleep and skipped meals. I analysed my Worlds race from every possible angle to find out what I did wrong. I went and spoke to the nutritionist. I spoke to my coaches, spoke to senior players. If we don’t find faults in ourselves and rectify them, we will never do good,” he said.
However, in Birmingham he paced himself perfectly.
“I always race according to my plans. The one race – World Championships – where I didn’t follow my plan, I faltered. I didn’t want to get trapped in somebody else’s techniques today. I wanted to run my own race. My target was to set the pace of the race first. But when they started increasing their pace, I didn’t want to get lured into that pack,” he said.
“It is a new day every day, even for an athlete. We try to do our best and that is why we train our body for these races. Today, I knew I had to prove that whatever I did in practice, hasn’t gone to waste. I had to prove at the international level that we aren’t any lesser than anyone, be it the Kenyans or Ethiopians. Nothing is impossible. Nothing is bigger than effort.”