Javelin thrower CWG Arshad Nadeem had gained admiration but not a medal at the Olympics at this time last year. He was able to win both this year at the Commonwealth Games (CWG), ending a 56-year medal drought for the nation in track and field.
CWG Arshad Nadeem
Arshad entered the Games as one of Pakistan’s top medal prospects, but the chances were against him because he didn’t have a coach and had a heavily bandaged throwing elbow from an injury.
However, the 25-year-old from Mian Channu was tenacious and unwavering in his desire to exalt his nation.
Arshad’s first throw on Sunday evening was 86.61 meters, three times better than his previous best of 86.38 meters. He was establishing the standard that the rest of the field would have to meet in order to win gold.
Arshad improved his personal best once more with a throw of exactly 88 meters on his second attempt, therefore the foul on that effort didn’t matter.
However, after each attempt, Arshad grimaced in discomfort and reached out to feel his right elbow, which he had been nursing since the Tokyo Olympics last year, where he had placed fifth. However, with the lead halfway through the final, he was still able to smile.
With two rounds left, Arshad’s fourth throw landed just past the 85-meter line. He remained in the lead.
Arshad ultimately fell behind after Peters threw the javelin 88.64 meters in the penultimate round. Peters rejoiced as if it were enough to win him the gold, but his happiness was fleeting. As soon as he threw beyond the 90-meter mark, the sport’s “holy grail,” Arshad knew he had the gold to win.
By doing so, he passed Taiwan’s Chao-Tsun Cheng to become just the second Asian to do so (91.36m). He also surpassed South African Marius Corbett’s 88.75m Games record, which had lasted since 1998.
Peters, who won the world title in Oregon with a throw of over 90 meters, attempted to pass Arshad with his final throw, but it was not to be. With a best throw of 85.70 meters, Yego of Kenya won bronze in the finals, giving him silver.
Arshad, who broke the record with a massive 90.18-meter throw to win gold, knelt down and made a prostration when he reached the top.
After Mohammad Nawaz’s silver medal at the quadrennial multi-sport event’s inaugural edition in 1954 and Jalal Khan’s second-place finish in 1958, Pakistan won its first athletics medal at the Games since 1966 and its first javelin gold.
Sacrificing first love for a javelin
It was Pakistan’s second gold in Birmingham; the first, which Nooh Dasagir Butt won in the 105+kg weightlifting class, also set a Games record.
From his modest town in the wheat and cotton-producing region of Punjab to winning gold at the CWG, Arshad’s journey has been anything but straightforward.
1.87 m tall Arshad had limited time for his original love of cricket. His daughters and sons used to work early and there were few facilities and resources for good training.
Despite the challenges, Arshad excelled on all fronts. He stated in an interview earlier this year, “I was good.
When he was in his early school years, he was an extremely versatile athlete. He participated in all of the school’s activities, including football, athletics, badminton, and cricket. But his favorite was cricket, and he quickly started competing in tape-ball events at the district level.
Rasheed Ahmad Saqi noticed Arshad when he was in seventh grade and they were competing in sports. He said last year, “One day, I received a letter in school and assumed I’d secured a job. The message came from Rasheed Sahib. I had been invited to meet him, and he promptly apprenticed me. I was quite thrilled to be working under him because he had a reputation for producing athletes in the division.
CWG Arshad Nadeem
Arshad was forced to pick between cricket and athletics after a few years. Arshad, the third oldest of five brothers got inspiration from his older brother’s achievements as divisional athletes. He made the decision to pursue athletics after careful consideration and conversation with his coach.
“Leaving cricket behind was difficult, but it ended up being one of the best choices I’ve ever made. Since my father was a laborer, we lacked the necessary connections or means to succeed professionally in cricket. Ajmal and Zafar, the PT [physical training] instructors at my school, took good care of me and assisted me in adjusting to the shift.
CWG Arshad Nadeem
Then, in athletics, Arshad focused on shot put, discus, and javelin throw. But over time, he also stopped competing in the discus and shot put and started concentrating just on the javelin. He gained national attention after winning gold medals at consecutive Punjab Youth Festivals and an inter-board competition. It led to offers from all the top domestic athletics teams, including the Army, Air Force, and Wapda.
Arshad had to make a choice right now because the 2015 National Championships were just around the corner. Rasheed Sahib served as a father figure to me and was always there to advise me on important choices. Naturally, I turned to him for advice. I chose to participate in their tryouts because the Wapda interdepartmental championships were approaching,” Arshad recounted.
The steady ascent
Arshad was able to throw 56 meters during the Wapda trials. He was discarded by the on-duty scouts who said he would never be a 60m+ athlete. However, one person decided to sign him up for the championship training camp after recognizing his ability. With a throw of 69 meters, Arshad won gold in the inter-department competition within a month. Fiaz Hussain Bokhari, the person who had brought him into the camp, was appointed as his permanent coach.
CWG Arshad Nadeem
Arshad competed for Wapda in the rescheduled National Championships. He was seventh going into his last throw when he became the first athlete to break the 70-meter mark. At the time, the 70-meter distance was thought to be adequate for international selection. It did turn out to be too far for the other competitors. At the age of 18, Arshad had already qualified for the 2016 South Asian Games (SAG) squad. Following this triumph, Wapda made him an offer for a long-term position.
Arshad’s first exposure to international competition and his first encounter with Neeraj Chopra came about as a result of his travel to India, for SAG 2016. Arshad lost to Sri Lankan Sumeda Ranasinghe for the silver medal in the last round of throws. Chopra took home the gold by a game’s record distance. He returned home with a bronze medal and a new national record of 78.33m, so it was very fruitful.
At the 2016 Asian Junior Athletics Championships in Vietnam and the 2017 Islamic Solidarity Games in Azerbaijan, two additional bronze medals were won. Arshad smashed his own national record during the qualifying stage of the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia. He remembered the competition with a hint of melancholy. “I was in great shape and throwing over 80 meters. I defeated Neeraj in qualifying. The Indian coaching staff appeared frightened. But because of the injuries, I wasn’t able to compete at my best in the final.
After a short while, though, Arshad returned to the podium with a bronze medal at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, raising the national record there to 80.75m. Chopra took home gold at the Asian and Commonwealth Games.
The golden ticket
Arshad Nadeem had already won four national championships and three times broken the record, but 2019 turned out to be his most prosperous year yet. The 23-year-old had the honor of being the only representative of Pakistan at the World Athletics Championships in Doha, where he broke the country’s record with an 81.52-meter throw but narrowly missed making it to the final. A month later, he successfully defended his championship at the 33rd National Games by setting yet another national record, this time clearing 83.65m.
Due to Chopra’s injury, Arshad entered the 2019 South Asian Games in Kathmandu, Nepal, as the clear favorite. And he fulfilled. History was made on December 7, 2019, when Arshad broke the national record with a throw of 86.29 meters, winning the gold and surpassing Chopra’s games record from 2016 by four meters.
In April 2021, Arshad won the gold medal at the Imam Raza Athletics Cup in Iran, throwing 86.38 meters, which was a personal best.
He was the first Pakistani athlete to qualify for the Olympics directly in the same year and came in sixth place overall.
He was the first Pakistani athlete to place in the top eight at the World Championships javelin final in Oregon last month.
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