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Road to Rio: A Miami student’s Olympic pursuit

By Coburn Gillies, For The Miami Student

Balancing academics, a job, extra-curricular activities and social life can be overwhelming for a college student, but throw in Olympic training and it seems impossible. However, that's not the case for Miami student Karan Sachdeva.

Sachdeva became a member of the Indian National Track and Field team during the summer and is training to qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.

"Right now, if you factor in two-a-days, I'm hitting about 100 miles a week."

The fifth-year senior said that like it's no big deal.

Training to qualify for the Olympics is no small feat, and his friends notice his work ethic.

"He doesn't go out," Ryan Covington, a close friend of Sachdeva, said. "He is locked in on his goal."

Sachdeva's dream began in 2012 when he attended a book signing for In The Long Run at the Shriver Center on campus. The book is written by distance runner Bob Schul, the only American to win gold in the 5,000-meter run. The 5,000-meter run is Sachdeva's current event.

When the two met, Schul saw potential in Sachdeva and took him under his wing.

"He has always told me that I can do better," Sachdeva said. "Those words have pushed me to new heights in my running."

The coach and the runner quickly developed a strong bond.

"Coach Bob is a grandfather-figure to me. I'm blessed," Sachdeva said. "When I was at my all-time down, he was the only light I saw."

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This light was his way out - a place to channel his grief after the passing of his grandfather, which happened around the same time he met Schul.

"Coach Bob is the only coach for me," Sachdeva said. "Even when I go to India to run, and other coaches try to give me advice for workouts, I defer to Bob."

Three years later, Sachdeva has achieved what he never thought was possible.

"My real dream is to not only qualify for Rio in 2016, but to be able to run in the 5,000-meter run in Tokyo in 2020," Sachdeva said. "It's the same place where Coach Bob won gold in 1964."

Qualifications for the 2016 Olympics loom, but no matter what happens for Sachdeva, one thing is clear: the journey to Rio has changed his life.

"I'll probably make it," the runner said. "Now that my workouts are starting to get ramped up, I'm peaking at the right time … it kind of hit me this summer after I qualified for the national team. I then realized that I'd be receiving the official Indian Track and Field gear."

Schul, however, is making sure Karan avoids complacency.

"I can't say if he'll qualify," Schul said. "But I can say that if he follows the training given, he'll have a shot."

The deadline to reach the benchmark 13:28 qualifying time is February 2016. Between now and then, Sachdeva and Schul will continue training, and Sachdeva will be running down his dream with every stride.