Avinash smashes national record, qualifies for Olympics
India's Avinash Sable qualified for Tokyo Olympics in men's 3000m steeplechase event by shattering his own national record for the second time in three days but finished 13th in the final of the World Championships here. In the men's 20km race walk event, national record holder K T Irfan finished a disappointing 27th in 1 hour 35 minute 21 seconds while compatriot Devender Singh stood 36th in 1:41:48 seconds among 40 athletes who completed the race.
A total of 52 competitors had started the race walk event which began at 11:30 PM local time under hot and humid conditions on Friday. The 29-year-old Irfan and the 35-year-old Devender had finished 23rd and 50th respectively in the last edition in 2017 with a much better timing.
The 29-year-old Irfan has already qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, and holds the national record. Avinash, a farmer's son from Mandwa village in Maharashtra, clocked 8 minute 21.37 seconds to breach the Olympics qualifying standard of 8:22.00 seconds while finishing 13th in the men's 3000m steeplechase final on Friday night.
In the process, Avinash broke his own national record twice in three days. He had clocked 8:25.23 seconds during the first round heats on Tuesday, bettering the then national record 8:28.94 seconds which he did during the Federation Cup in March. In fact, this was his fourth national record in one year. His first national record (8:29.80 seconds) was set in September last year during the National Open in Bhubaneswar while the second came in March this year during the Federation Cup in Patiala.
During this period, he made an improvement of nearly eight-and-a-half seconds. Included in the final race under dramatic circumstances, the 25-year-old Havaldar in the Indian Army was not expected to stand on the podium and he seemed to be running within his limitations as he finished far behind the medal winners.
From the very beginning, Avinash was running at the rear and by the halfway mark, the distance from the leading pack of runners was too long to cover up. Reigning Olympic champion Conseslus Kipruto of Kenya defended his 2017 title with a time of 8:01.35 seconds, more than 20 seconds faster than Avinash, while Lamecha Girma (8:01.36) of Ethiopia and Soufiane Bakkali (8:03.76) of Morocco took the silver and bronze respectively.
Born in a farmer's family, Avinash joined 5 Mahar regiment after completing 12th and was posted at the Siachen Glacier in 2013–2014, before shifting base to the deserts of north-western Rajasthan and in Sikkim in 2015. He first took part in inter-army cross country running in 2015 before switching to steeplechase under Army coach Amrish Kumar in 2017. Avinash had made it to Friday's finals in dramatic circumstances after he initially failed to make the cut in the heat races on Tuesday. He was later included among the men's 3000m steeplechase finalists after the Athletics Federation of India successfully protested that he was obstructed by other athletes during the heat.
The race referee, after examining video footage, agreed that Avinash was significantly obstructed on two occasions. India's protest was accepted and under Rule 163.2 (Obstruction), he was included for the final.
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