“I didn’t throw it freely. Had I done that the spear would have gone further,” exclaimed Pakistan’s brilliant javelin thrower Arshad Nadeem after his iconic performance at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, where he qualified for the final on Friday and also booked his place in the Paris Olympics.
Despite the restraint, Arshad gave a stellar result with an 86.79m throw which got him directly qualified for the final.
He is still operating with less than 100 percent fitness but his spirits are high and he wants to win the medal in the final on Sunday to do his nation proud.
It was the second-best throw following India’s Neeraj Chopra’s 88.77m, making the South Asians rule a predominantly European sport, at least in the qualification round.
For Sunday, Arshad is requesting prayers and wishing the best to Chopra as well.
“I want the nation to pray for me constantly, I want to become world number one, world champion,” said the genial giant.
“I want my fans around the world to do the same, and I want to wish Neeraj bhai all the best. This is good for our sport, and we both feel that we can win medals,” Arshad told The Express Tribune in the wee hours of Saturday morning in Budapest.
He explained how during the competition on Friday everyone was looking for a shady spot at the venue. “Everyone wanted to be in the shade, the weather has been so hot. I was busy thinking about where to sit next in between the three attempts as well.”
The 27-year-old athlete said that he was very keen to qualify for the Olympics, an aim he was not vocal about, keeping it close to his heart, but he was solely focused on it.
“To be honest, I came to the World Championships with one aim only, i.e., to qualify for the Olympics,” said Arshad.
But the key for Arshad was to see where he stands among the competition and get the job done.
“I was targeting the World Championships, I came here at such a big event, so I want to do well.
“Olympic qualification was on my mind all the time during this, no matter how hard it had been after my right knee injury earlier this year. I decided to skip the Asian Championship because I knew I couldn’t risk this,” said the 2018 Asian Games bronze medallist.
Arshad is happy with his performance so far, even though he wants to win the medal in Budapest.
He was smiling at the fact that his qualification result is better than what he did in last year’s final round (86.16m).
“I am happy, after a long year and all the pain I had to bear I am back at my normal throw. Even though I am physically fit, I am still 10-20% off peak fitness,” he admitted.
“When training we had to be creative and we did some routines and skipped a few other because I was feeling strain and pain.
“I didn’t do the high jumps, medicinal ball and other things because the pain would get worse each time I tried.”
And yet, his performance on Friday was a masterclass, something he received compliments for from other coaches at the venue as well.
One can say that it was Arshad’s most complete performance where he remained calculated, calm and confident.
“My confidence is really high; I believe I can do it. I came here to qualify for the Olympics and see Allah has helped me achieve that target, so I am careful,” said Arshad, who trained in Lahore.
Arshad’s technique at the qualification stage was also different. He was not running his usual run. He said that it was due to three challenges. “I changed my technique because of my knee, I have this concern that I don’t want to be rough with it, I can feel my mind not letting me go overboard, I am cautious. The track is unlike what I have used before, it required me to use shoes with smaller spikes so that they don’t tear the surface. It was my first experience with this track and these shoes. I had to be sure that I ran carefully and not slip.
“Every javelin thrower has elbow problems, and I think after my first throw (70.63m), people must have thought that I was still not there.
“After the qualification round, we spent time at the stadium, people took pictures, so it was really nice,” said Arshad, acknowledging that the facilities and the gap in professional training between himself and Chopra is vast.