As he walked through the mixed zone at the Alexander Stadium here, Kenya’s 3000m gold medallist Abraham Kibiwot was asked whether he ever felt under pressure from the young Indian who was giving him the chase.”I know the guy who was following me (silver medallist Avinash Sable of India) and I know he is not that fast. I was not afraid of him so that is why I controlled the race at the front,” Kibiwot said.
Well, Kibiwot may put up a brave face but to all those who watched the race, it was clear that the Kenyan had his heart in his mouth as he realised that Sable was bearing down at him with a brilliant late kick and was virtually on his shoulder as he crossed the finish line just a fraction of seconds ahead to claim the gold medal. Kibiwot is a very experienced racer having won the silver medal in 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast and has represented his country in the World Championships too.
He finished the race at 8:11.15 while Sable crossed the line in 8:11.20 a new national record for Sable and his personal best. The Armyman from the Beed district of Maharashtra was expected to be an also-ran in the race dominated by the Kenyans since 1994.
But on Saturday, Sable was not bothered by the reputation nor the number of Kenyans in the race (there were three) and ran his own race. 2018 Commonwealth Games 3000m steeplechase champion Conseslus Kipruto of Kenya, the Rio 2016 Olympic Games gold medallist and a two times World Champion, finished sixth and was effusive in praise for the way Sable upstaged them to win the silver medal.
Indeed, Sable was awesome on Saturday as he became the first non-Kenyan to win a medal in the 3000m steeplechase at the Commonwealth Games since 1994. The Kenyans have won every steeplechase race at the last 10 CWG editions, claiming all the spots on the podium. Sable entered the Kenyan bastion and came out with a silver medal.
He also set a national record with a timing of 8:11.20, which is his personal best, finishing second behind Kenya’s Abraham Kibiwot, who took gold at 8:11.15, nearly ending the race in a photo finish as he tapped into some unknown reserves of energy to produce a brilliant kick, literally finishing on the heels of Kibiwot. Kenya’s Amos Serem won the bronze medal in 8:16.83 seconds.
Though he claimed the silver, Sable was not happy with his last lap and said it could have been better.”My last lap was a bit disappointing, but I’m really happy because it is a long (time) since India won a long-distance medal,” he later told the reporters.
Sable completed his first 1000m in 2 minutes, 40.5 seconds and the second in 2:47.2 while the third too was slightly slower at 2:43.4.Though Sable said he was a bit disappointed with his last lap, he did make history on Saturday.
To beat one Kenyan in 3000m steeplechase is very difficult, Avinash Sable on Saturday got the better of two runners from that country to win a silver medal. The enormity of his achievement soon dawns on him. But considering how down-to-earth he is, the 27-year-old will just take this achievement in his stride as he prepares for his biggest dream — a medal at the Olympic Games