Clearing the hurdles has now become a way of life for the Beed athlete, who has cut down over 12 seconds in the 3000m hurdles over the last two years.
Now, Sable doesn’t just want to be the first Indian male steeplechaser to participate at the Olympics since Gulzara Singh Mann in the 1952 Games. He wants to make a mark.
“Participating and inspiring the next generation is good, but I don’t want to come back as ‘also ran’ from Tokyo. I am working hard to achieve my goal and I am certain of making my presence felt at the Games,” the Armyman, who is part of the Army Sports Institute, Pune, told TOI.
His coach Amrish Kumar says the postponement of the Games have given them enough time to work on the shortcomings.
“I can’t tell you how much he is clocking now, but trust me, it is much less than what he ran in the last competition,” the coach said.
Sable’s last competition was the Federation Cup in Patiala, where he bettered the national record one more time, clocking 8.20.20s.
The bronze medal at the Rio Games went to Frenchman Mahiedine Mekhissi with the timing of 8:11.52. Kumar understands the task is uphill, but not impossible.
“He will have to further reduce seven to eight seconds at least to be in contention, but I can assure he is on the right track,” the coach said.
Since breaking Gopal Saini’s 37-year-old record of 8:30.88s by clocking 8:29.80s in 2018, Sable has bettered his own record five times. Although bettering the record is not on Sable and Kumar’s agenda, it is certainly helping them in setting the bar higher.
“We don’t want to sit on old performances. Jo ho gaya, who bhool jao (forget what has happened). What we remember is the new timing, which is then set as the base. We work on finishing within the new base timing,” Kumar said.
A steeplechaser has to run 7.5 rounds of 400m with 7 water jumps and 28 hurdling jumps during the race.
“He jumps over 200 hurdles every day during his training. This is making his jumps smoother and also making his muscles stronger and used to the jumps. We are working on endurance and speed at the same time,” the coach added.
It isn’t just the predictable aspects that Sable is working at, he is also considering the mishaps that are normal in his events.
At the World Championships in Doha, where Sable had clinched the ticket to Tokyo, the steeplechaser finished 7th in the heats where he was twice obstructed by Ethiopian runner Takele Nigate. But after a protest, he was allowed to run in the final, where he ran 8:21.37s, to qualify for Tokyo.
“When you have obstructions during the run, it kills your momentum, so we have been creating such obstructions during his trainings. He has 5-6 training partners, who fall deliberately in front of him and his job is to avoid those obstructions and focus on his goal,” the coach added.
“Although we cannot predict what will happen in Tokyo, as each race is different, such training may help him prepare for the unexpected.”