Olympics bound steeplechaser Avinash Sable on Saturday said he was focused on qualifying for the Tokyo Games, knowing fully well that a podium finish at the World Championships in Doha was out of question.

Avinash on Friday qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in men’s 3000m steeplechase event by shattering his own national record for the second time in three days. He, however, finished 13th in the finals.

“I knew that it was going be really tough to win a medal or finish in top 5 or 6. So, I focused on qualifying for the Olympics. I came out for the race thinking to qualify for the Olympics,” he told PTI from Doha.

“I now have nine months with me before the Olympics and I can prepare very well for it and do well in Tokyo. That was the plan I and my coach (Amrish Kumar who is also in Doha) had made,” he added.

The 25-year-old from Mandwa village in Maharashtra clocked 8 minute 21.37 seconds to breach the Olympics qualifying standard of 8:22.00.

He had clocked 8:25.23 seconds during the first round heats on Tuesday, bettering his then national record of 8:28.94 seconds, which he achieved during the Federation Cup in March.

In fact, this was his fourth national record in just over 12 months. His first national record (8:29.80) 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.

Avinash had made it to Friday’s finals in dramatic circumstances after he initially failed to make the cut through the heats on Tuesday. He was later included in the starting line up after the Athletics Federation of India successfully protested that he was obstructed by other athletes during the heat race.

“I would like to thank the AFI for the prompt protest. I got a lot of support from the AFI officials. After the race, they told me not to worry and I will be able to race in the finals. Ultimately, the protest was successful and I owe this result to the AFI,” he said.

Avinash said if not a medal, he will aim to finish in the top 5 or 6 in the Tokyo Olympics for which he will now need to slice at least 12 seconds from his timing in the World Championships.

“I am feeling very happy to qualify for my first Olympics in Tokyo next year. Every athlete would want to win a medal but if not my aim is to be among the top 5 or 6,” he said.

“I need to cut down at least 12 seconds and run below 8 minute 10 seconds by the time of Tokyo Olympics. That is my target,” said the havaldar in the Indian Army.