Neeraj Chopra is India’s pride. The young javelin thrower scripted history by becoming the first Indian to win a track and field medal at the Tokyo Olympics, asserting he is a rare world-class track and field athlete from the country that is obsessed with cricket. Avinash Sable is not far behind!
The 27-year-old from the Marathwada region in Maharashtra’s Beed district scripted history for India at the Commonwealth Games 2022, becoming the first Indian to win a steeplechase medal.
Sable nearly won Gold and almost ended up breaking a 2-decade old Kenyan domination in the sport, an interesting race with hurdles and water pits. Sable took Silver, breaking his own national record and clocking a new personal best of 8:11.20s while Abraham Kibiwot of Kenya won Gold with a timing of 8:11.15s.
WHAT A RUN!
Sable got off the blocks quickly and stuck with the Kenyan runners at the top 3, which included Rio Olympics gold medalist and legendary Conseslus Kipruto who eventually finished 6th.
To give a sense of the enormity of Avniash’s achievement, consider this fact. This is the first time since 1994 that a non-Kenyan runner has medalled at the event as Kenya has swept the podium in each of the last 6 editions of the Commonwealth Games.
Avinash Sable finished 11th in an uncharacteristically slow race at the Athletics World Championships in Eugene with a timing of 8:31.75s. However, as an Army man does, Sable put behind the setback and bounced back in style to win the historic Silver, which is worth its weight in Gold, at the Commonwealth Games in 2022.
Avinash Sable in action in the men’s 3000m steeplechase final at CWG 2022 (AP Photo)
Avinash Sable’s rise in steeplechase has been meteoric. When the Kenyans swept the podium in Glasgow in 2014, Sable hadn’t even taken to steeplechase. He took to the sport only in 2015, but has established himself as one of the finest long-distance runners in the country.
6km RUN TO SCHOOL
Avinash Sable’s inspirational rise from a family of modest means in Maharashtra is inspirational, to say the least. Sable’s parents, Mukund and Vaishali, farmers who owned a little piece of land, worked as daily-wage labourers in brick kilns. Sable had to walk more than 6km every day to get to his school from the time he was eight years old. Sable had accompanied his parents to the brick kiln to make ends meet for their family.
Sable’s talent was spotted by a schoolteacher but the young boy from Maharashtra could not focus much on running and walking despite having been part of a few school meets.
However, when he enrolled himself in a local college and ran 8km from home to college every day, his talent was spotted once again. This time, Sable’s teacher in college helped him gain exposure and took him to college-level running meets.
SIACHEN POSTING AT 18
It was his college teacher who motivated him to get an Army job. At 18, Sable got recruited by the Indian Army and he was part of the Mahar Regiment.
As a teenager, Sable was posted in Siachen, the highest battlefield in the globe, known for its severely cold temperatures. Sable also served at the Rajasthan border where the temperature would rise to excess of 50 degrees Celsius two years into his job. It’s in the Army where Sable was chiseled into a tough, tough man.
ARMY JOB PROPELS SABLE
At the Indian Army, Sable began by running cross country championships. However, his coach and mentor Amrish Kumar chose steeplechase for the young man after seeing his dedication and never-say-die attitude.
Sable and Amrish formed a strong bond and the Maharashtra runner was soon making a mark in steeplechase events at the national level. Within a year of focussing on steeplechase, Sable broke a 37-year-old national record in 2018.
After an unsuccessful tie-up with Russian steeplechase coach Nikolai Snesarev, Sable reunited with Amrish Kumar in 2018 and the duo set out to prove naysayers wrong again.
NEW HIGHS FOR INDIA
In 2019, he broke the national record again and the timing allowed him to make his World Championships debut in Doha. He became the first steeplechaser from India at the Worlds since Deena Ram in 1991.
In the same year, Sable also won silver at the Asian Championships in Doha.
Sable went to the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, becoming the first man since Gulzara Singh Mann from India to represent the country at the Games, in 1952.
Sable broke his own national record but finished 7th in the heats with only the top six qualifying for the final of the Olympics.
There was no let-up in Sable’s intensity after the Olympics.
Thanks to the Athletics Federation of India and the Sports Authority of India, Sable had a golden opportunity to train under American coach Scott Simmons in Colorado Springs from April this year.
In 2022, he set another new national record at the 2022 Rabat Diamond League in Morocco – 8:12.48s which he broke on Saturday in Birmingham.
The World Championships in Eugene last month did not go his way but Sable learned his lessons and won the silver in Commonwealth Games with a new personal best.
Avinash’s run in Birmingham on Saturday will certainly be etched in the memory of Indian fans. August 6, 2022 is special, much like August 7, 2021.
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