Avinash Sable | From National Records to Challenging the Best in World

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Avinash Sable has become a stalwart of Indian athletics, consistently representing India on the big stage over the last 6 years.
He will do so again at the Paris 2024 Olympics, in the Men’s 3000m Steeplechase. He will be one of few Indian athletes going to his 2nd Olympics. So the stage will feel familiar, but the pressure may not.

Expectations are certainly higher for him this time around, with fans having a lofty but achievable goal for him: make the final and set a new national record (NR).

At his best, Avinash Sable is world-class. There aren’t many Indian athletes who have been to 3
World Championships.

His event is at a very high level globally, with the expected Olympic storyline a showdown between WR-holder Lamecha Girma (ETH) and the unstoppable Soufiane El Bakkali (MAR).

The medals may be out of reach for Sable, mostly because he doesn’t have the fastest sprint finish. But he could spring a surprise if he’s at his best.

Getting to the final won’t be easy with no time qualifiers. I reckon he’ll need to be brave with ~8:16 pace in the heats to make sure he gets there.
Once he makes the final, though, anything could happen. If he runs his own race at PB-pace (as he did in CWG 2022), he could potentially even sneak into the top 6.

Looking Back

Three years ago, Sable became the first Indian male steeplechaser to compete at the Olympics
(Sudha Singh has flown the flag high on the women’s side previously). So although hopes were boosted by his World Championship final appearance in 2019, qualifying for Tokyo was in itself a historic first.

He gave a very impressive account of himself, improving his own NR in the heats
with an 8:18.12, but missing out on the final.

He will look to go at least one better in Paris and the good news is that he has improved by leaps and bounds since then.

He bettered that NR by nearly 6 seconds in June 2022 with a run of 8:12.48, before making
another final at the 2022 World Championships where he came 11th.

Courtesy Olympics

His brilliant season culminated with a new NR of 8:11.20 and Silver at the Commonwealth Games, defeating some very high profile athletes to do so, most notably former World and Olympic champion Conseslus Kipruto (KEN).

He followed that up with a very busy 2023, with Olympic qualification, World Championships, and Asian Games to think about, both in the steeplechase and the 5000m.
Despite the divided attention, he set a new NR in the 5000m in May and had a strong run of Diamond League meets in the Steeple.

He met the Olympic Qualifying Standard in his 2nd attempt in July with another 8:11 run. The blemish on his record was a disappointing 2023 World Championships, wherein he only ran 8:22 in the heats to miss the finals.

Courtesy TOI

Having gone 11s faster a month ago, it was a tactical shortcoming more than a physical one.

He bounced back well at the Asian Games, however, winning Gold in the Steeple and Silver in the 5000m for an impressive double.
His interest in the longer events has continued into 2024, running a 5K and a 10K even before
opening his Steeplechase season in June, seemingly in an effort to qualify for Paris in a 2nd
Ultimately, he fell well short of a 5K quota and it has left some fans questioning his decision
to wait until June to race in his favoured event. But Sable has a very strong pedigree in flat
distance running so the impulse to run those events to try and qualify is very understandable.

He holds the NR in the half-marathon from back in 2020. More than that, it’s not uncommon for
steeplechasers to use longer events to train and build up to big events.

Having these longer races in his legs should hopefully help his endurance for the Steeplechase. He has also made clear his
intention to peak at the Olympics and not before. It is true that we don’t yet have a very good idea
of his form yet.

He ran 8:21 in season-opener a month ago and 8:31 to comfortably win Interstates last week, but we don’t have anything else to go by.

Our questions should be answered this Sunday, however, when he runs at the Paris Diamond League.

Heading To Paris

This week’s race will be key in Sable’s preparation for the Games, where he will face several of the same competitors. I expect the pacemakers to set up for at least sub-8:10 pace for the likes of Abraham Kibiwot (KEN), which will be a good test of Sable’s shape.

If he can run near 8:15 and keep up with the likes of Miura, Tindouft, Arce & Serem, it will bode very well for the Olympics.

Above all, it will be important reconnaissance for August, giving Sable a chance to familiarise
himself with Paris’s track and summer conditions, while previewing the competition.

To play to his strengths at the Games, he will need to gauge his effort against his own capacity, not other runners.

Hopefully, the Diamond League race will help Sable pace himself for the tricky heats in
Paris on Aug 5th where his race, in his own words, “apni timing se hai.”

Make sure you tune in this Sunday evening to cheer Sable on at the Paris Diamond League and
look out for him in August at the Olympics.

Written by Aaryan (X: @thesportsniche)

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