Commonwealth Games 2022 | Athletics

I need to forget the 3000m steeplechase silver first, says Avinash Sable

CWG 2022 3000m steeplechase silver medallist Avinash Sable during a welcome ceremony at the Sports Authority of India, South Centre, in Bengaluru on August 9, 2022.

CWG 2022 3000m steeplechase silver medallist Avinash Sable during a welcome ceremony at the Sports Authority of India, South Centre, in Bengaluru on August 9, 2022. | Photo Credit: K. Murali Kumar

Avinash Sable wants to forget the Commonwealth Games silver soon. “I need to forget this achievement first,” the 3000m steeplechase medallist tells The Hindu, on his return from Birmingham.

“I have to restart training as if I have not achieved anything. I do feel happy. But the main focus is to be better and not think that I have done something extraordinary. I remember my losses and learn from them. I forget my victories.”

This mentality is perhaps what helped Sable overcome the disappointment of having finished 11th at the World Championships. In what was the slowest steeplechase final in World Championships history, he clocked 8:31.75s, his worst time since October 2019. In Birmingham, he went 8:11.20s for silver and bettered his best performance for the ninth time.

“It was a very difficult time,” Sable says of the period after the Worlds. “I was training in the USA and everybody there believed ‘Avinash is going to win a medal’. I, too, thought that my practice was good.

“But I had never experienced such a race in my life. The race was slow and I was behind but I didn’t know what happened. I had done a lot of speed workouts and still I could do nothing. I finished 11th and I thought, ‘I could have finished 11th even without any practice. If I couldn’t achieve anything with so much good practice, maybe I won’t achieve anything ever’.

Despondency doesn’t last long

But the despondency didn’t last long. Training was the only tool the 27-year-old had and he knew that. Belief in his methods soon returned, enough to tell him that he could break the Kenyan hegemony in men’s steeplechase, where they had won all 18 medals since the 1998 edition.

“When I was in the U.S, the Kenyan athletes used to train there. I used to practise with them as an equal. I thought, ‘If I can practise with them, why can’t I compete?’ Earlier it used to be that we had not seen them or didn’t know how they raced. But here I was with them, practising. So, I told myself that a medal was the target.

“My main focus was not to run a slow race. So, I went fast in the opening lap and the others followed.

“Initially, I had gone in with the mindset that I should get a medal, of whichever colour. But once there, I wanted to win gold. Maybe there was a slight mistake in where I tried to take off. I still had a lot of energy left but I couldn’t beat him (Abraham Kibiwot).”

India’s Avinash Sable runs Kenya’s Abraham Kibiwot close during the men’s 3000m steeplechase final athletics event at the Alexander Stadium, in Birmingham on day nine of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, on August 6, 2022.

India’s Avinash Sable runs Kenya’s Abraham Kibiwot close during the men’s 3000m steeplechase final athletics event at the Alexander Stadium, in Birmingham on day nine of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, on August 6, 2022. | Photo Credit: AFP

The difference was just five hundredths of a second. In the years to come, one of the endearing images from CWG will be of Sable, with the whole crowd behind him, nearly beating Kibiwot for the gold. But Sable, like always, wants to look at the bigger picture.

Silver medallist Avinash  Sable of India, gold medallist Abraham Kibiwot of Kenya and bronze medallist Amos Serem of Kenya during the medal ceremony for the men’s 3000m steeplechase final of the 2022 Commonwealth Games on August 06, 2022 in Birmingham.

Silver medallist Avinash Sable of India, gold medallist Abraham Kibiwot of Kenya and bronze medallist Amos Serem of Kenya during the medal ceremony for the men’s 3000m steeplechase final of the 2022 Commonwealth Games on August 06, 2022 in Birmingham. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

“If you keep thinking about the CWG and Asian levels, you cannot win at the Worlds,” he says. “An Asian medal or a CWG medal can change one’s life. Yes. But I don’t want to think like that. When I was young, all I wanted in the army was a promotion as Havaldar. My thinking was only so much. Then, I wanted to do well in cross country running. That’s all.

The move from cross country to steeplechase

“But when I moved from cross country to steeplechase, that’s when things changed. I got a promotion also. I then told myself: fight for the things that you won’t get easily. Try for the things that are not easy, that no Indian is thinking, of beating the Kenyans, winning medals at the Worlds.”

The last desire is what will drive him in the coming months. “There will be times when you go down after a good performance. Like after winning a medal or continuously breaking records. I shouldn’t let that happen.”

The main focus — do well at the Worlds

“So, the next few months is all about preparing for the World Championships….and Asian Games. I need to peak for those. At the Worlds I couldn’t win a medal. Maybe it was not my day and I didn’t have enough luck. But it is equally possible that there was some mistake from me. So, the main focus will be to do well at the Worlds.”

“I will go back to what coach Nikolai (Snesarev) used to tell me. He always treated me as if I was a zero. But he also gave me the belief that I could win at the world level. I am what I am because of that [mentality].”

This is probably why Sable wants to forget the CWG silver. India, though, is unlikely to.


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Printable version | Aug 17, 2022 8:51:33 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/athletics/cwg-2022-i-need-to-forget-the-3000m-steeplechase-silver-first-says-avinash-sable/article65750801.ece