A guest speaker in one of our recent webinars said India’s progress in the field of sports is an indicator of the strides the country as a whole is making in general. He might not be off the mark but he was clearly coming off the highs of India’s spectacular show in the recent Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. Had the games’ organisers not taken off shooting from the list of events, this would easily have been India’s best performance ever. More specifically, India’s performance in track and field is surely remarkable. And no better than the steeplechase silver medal winner Avinash Sable to exemplify India’s rise in athletics. Sable missed the gold by half a second in an event where no one but a Kenyan had finished on the podium since 1994.
“Many call him the ‘monk’ of Indian athletics. Avinash Sable’s international rise in the space of mere four years has been a meditative ‘run’. For someone who thought he may not come close to his 3000m Steeplechase national record again after setting it first in 2018, Sable has broken it an unbelievable eight more times since then.”
For those of us who saw the race live, it was perhaps the most thrilling 8 minutes we have seen on a track in a long time. For those who didn’t, you must catch it on Youtube but this article somewhat makes up with a bit of a backstory to boot featuring how Sable and his coach took their learnings from the recent Oregon meet and plotted the downfall of almost all the three Kenyans who were ahead of him till the last kilometre.
“…The race in Oregon turned out to be one of the slowest men’s Steeplechase finals in the history of the World Chamionships. The winner, Soufiane El Bakkali of Morrocco clocked 8:25:13, while the the Tokyo Olympics last year he finished with 8:08;90 for a gold medal….
….It was the slowness of the race in Oregon that possible foxed Sable. “ At the World Chamionships, in the final, I hadn’t run such a race before….My practice had been that whatever the pace be, compared to the past World Champinships, I should be prepared for that. But in that race, nobody took off in the first lap. So I thought if it is a slow race, then it is to my advantage and I would do it easily in the end. But in the last 700m, I couldn’t cope up”
In the short period of training available before the CWG, Sable and his coach Scott Simmons planned to train in a way that they shouldn’t be surprised into the same mistake once again at the Commonwealth Games.
“He would run at a pace equal to his national record and have an opportunity to compete right till the end” coach Scott shared….
“The first kilometre was sub-8 pace” Scott added, pointing at the 2:40:5 Sable clocked for the first 1000m in the CWG final. He was fourth at that stage, literally giving the Kenyans a ‘run’ for their money.
But strategies sometimes need alteration mid-race, depnedning on how it’s going. It was probably the takeaway for Scott and Sable from what happened in the Oregon final.
“I was focused on the last kilometre”, said Sable…”If the runners in front are a bit tired, I will go ahead. But I got a bit late in analysing that….that’s why Kibiwot went a little ahead from 800m (onwards). Had I taken my decision earlier, I could have beaten him as well”
But the coach was happy to see Sable’s hunger grow in the last 500m or so.
“I was excited to see that he didn’t settle for bronze and still didn’t settle for silver and wanted to go for a win. He could have run 8:13 and won a silver. But tha wasn’t good enough for him. That’s the kind of spirit I want to see from him” said Scott.”
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