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Monday, Sep 16, 2019

Conquered Beed, survived Kargil, Army steeplechaser’s Pune gold is ‘world championship’ practice run

From farming in Beed district, Avinash Sable’s life changed after he joined the Army at the age of 18.

pune Updated: Sep 13, 2019 16:40 IST
Oumar Aga
Oumar Aga
Hindustan Times, Pune
Avinash Sable will represent India in the steeplechase event at the IAAF World Athletics Championship in Doha, Qatar, from September 27- October 4.
Avinash Sable will represent India in the steeplechase event at the IAAF World Athletics Championship in Doha, Qatar, from September 27- October 4.(SHANKAR NARAYAN/HT)

Pune Avinash Sable joined the Army at the age of 18. He had no connection with sports. Today, Sable is 24, and will represent India in the steeplechase event at the IAAF World Athletics Championship in Doha, Qatar, from September 27- October 4.

It has been 28 years since an Indian male steeplechaser - Deena Ram - participated in the event at World Athletics Championship ; 1991 in Tokyo.

From farming in Beed district, to being posted in Kargil on Army duty, Sable’s life story is much like the race he competes in, full of obstacles which he has conquered, and now he is ready for the highest-level of competition.

At the Army Sports Institute (ASI), Sable’s coach Amrish Kumar Adhana - who played a vital role in making him an athlete ready for the international level - says it was not until 2017 that athletics emerged as a vocation for the Naib Subedar.

“He was not inclined towards any sport. We heard he was from Beed and that he coped well with the challenging climate of the north. That is when I noticed him and brought him to the Arty Centre, Hyderabad, and asked him to try athletics,” said Adhana.

Candidates who are short-listed for enrollment in the Army Sports Institute (ASI), Pune, are filtered through the Arty Centre, Hyderabad.

“After finishing fourth or fifth in multiple tournaments, my morale went down. When I was on the verge of quitting, coach Amrish Kumar came to me and explained that this is just a beginning. The journey is long, but I will get there one day. His words inspired me and I decided to train harder,” Sable says of his early running.

Adhana’s coaching and Sable’s training came together for the 67th Inter-Service Championship, in Jalahalli, Bengaluru, in 2017.

Sable went on to bag his first steeplechase medal at this tournament, as he finished second. In the following tournament, which was the Chennai Indian Open, Sable won gold. The young athlete finished with a timing that was 30-seconds faster than the time he set in Bengaluru.

In 2018, Sable started training under Belarussian coach Nikolai Snesarev, as he aimed to prepare and participate in the Asian Games that year.

In April 2018, Sable fell victim to an ankle injury, which forced him to pull out of the Asian Games 2018.

In September, after a full recovery, Sable bagged two consecutive gold medals at the Inter-Services meet at Jalahalli, Bengaluru, and at the Bhubaneshwar Indian Open Championship.

Under the guidance of Snesarev, Sable smashed the 37-year-old national steeplechase record at the Bhubaneshwar Indian Open Championship 2018.

The record belonged to Gopal Saini, who set a time of 8:30.88s in 1981, at the Asian Athletics Championship, Tokyo, which was bested by Sable, as he finished the event with a time of 8:29.80s.

Earlier this year, in February, Sable added another gold medal to his collection, winning the Indian Grand Prix in Patiala.

In March, Sable stopped training under Nikolai Snesarev and returned to train under Captain Amrish Kumar Adhana.

Sable then returned to Patiala to snatch yet another gold at the Federation Cup and also qualified for the Asian and World Championships. In addition to that, he also beat his previous record of 8:29.80s, which he set in 2018, finishing with a time of 8:28.94s.

Brimming with confidence, in April this year, Sable headed to his first Asian Championship, in Doha, Qatar.

The soldier could not match his personal best, but still ended up with silver. Sable finished with a time of 8:30.19s, fractionally slower than his personal best.

In Pune, this week, it was an easy gold for Sable at the inter-services meet. Sable is now ready to take on the upcoming World Championships in Doha, Qatar. And India will be watching.

“I am preparing for the World Championships now. This race (Pune) was like a warm-up, building up to the preparation for the World Championships. I want to give everything I have in Doha,” said Sable..

“When you hear about Beed district, you automatically think about difficult circumstances. He (Sable) has immense potential. The fact that he was never inclined towards athletics, joined late, and has performed well in just three years, speaks volumes about him. Breaking the Services record will surely pump him up for the upcoming World Championships,” said Captain Amrish Kumar Adhana, coach

Chasing Records

Sable started his preparation for the World Athletics Championships winning gold with a timing of 8:35.46 at the 69th Inter-Services Athletics Championship which concluded, at the Army Sports Institute, Pune, on Tuesday,

Sable holds the national record with a time of 8:28.94s. However, after finishing with a time of 8:35.46s, he did manage beat the previous services record time of 8:41.51s, which was also set by him, last year.

First Published: Sep 13, 2019 16:38 IST