Lion-hearted Arshad makes World Athletics Championships final


Fighting pain, adversity and tough rivals, Pakistan’s brilliant javelin thrower Arshad Nadeem pulled off yet another stellar performance on Friday with his spear to qualify for the World Athletics Championships final for the second year straight. And with that, the determined fellow also qualified for the Paris Olympics.

Arshad’s performance on the day was poetic; he started off slow with a 70.65m throw in his first attempt but then improved in his second attempt by more than 10 meters at 81.53. And finally, the lion-hearted athlete ended the qualifying round at the top of his Group B with a superb 86.79m amid hot and sultry weather.

Arshad’s was the second-longest distance achieved overall in the qualification round.

Meanwhile, Arshad’s main rival, India’s Neeraj Chopra, threw his spear at 88.77 meters.

Czech Jakub Vadlejch was third with an 83.50m throw. The final of the event will take place on Sunday.

“I have been in pain since 2016. If you check it, I have always been battling injuries. I’ll do it again in the World Athletics Championships this year.

“I just want to make Pakistan proud, I want all the prayers, I want to make people feel the joy,” the 27-year-old told The Express Tribune when this correspondent asked him about how he overcomes his pain to excel.

To his credit and courage, Arshad has overcome long-standing injuries that have plagued him even before the 2020 Olympics.

“This is just like I made my international come-back with the World Championships last year soon after the Tokyo Olympics. I am doing the same this year. I can say that pain has been a big part of my journey. It stays, but I overcome it. Even now, I trained very carefully. My legs have been a bit stiff, but I am fit for now.”

Arshad was going against the odds in the qualifying stage, the commentator was calling him rusty just before he threw his spear 86.79m away, marking his season-best performance.

With that amazing performance, he booked his place in Paris as the qualifying criterion has been 85.50m for men.

With so much on the line, unlike the Commonwealth Games when he was charged and shouting at the spear as he threw it, this time Arshad has been calmer, and more calculated in his demeanor and approach.

It looked like he was almost in a meditative state, grinning with self-belief. “I will be throwing with all my strength, with everything I got, and the rest is really on Allah. I believe that,” said the Mian-Chunnu resident, who once dreamed of becoming a fast bowler.

Arshad has emerged as the master of delivering shocking performances. On Friday, too, it was hard not to look at his knees and right elbow, which had been injured in previous events and practice sessions.

“I trained in Lahore this entire time, I got the injury in my right knee earlier this year, at the National Games which was very painful, the outside edge of my right knee was troubling me. I got the MRIs done, so my aim from then was to make sure that I keep fit because I had been targeting the world championships,” said Arshad.

He explained that he was training with Salman Butt in Lahore and had been away from his family for more than two months.

Earlier, this year Arshad had told The Express Tribune that he would want to train abroad, with the same coach who is associated India’s Neeraj Chopra, but his knee injury kept him in Pakistan and he could not travel.

“I wanted to train abroad, definitely that was something on my list, but how could I with this kind of injury,” said Arshad.

It is an amazing coincidence that Arshad has performed his best in August. His Tokyo Olympics finish among the top javelin throwers was in August and his Commonwealth Games record-breaking performance was in the same month last year too, in fact, his Asian Games 2018 javelin throw competition where he bagged bronze medal was in August as well, when both Chopra and he shared the podium.

“I guess it is just a lucky month for me, it is the month of our independence day as well, so this makes me happy,” said Arshad as he signed off, requesting the people of Pakistan and his fans for constant prayers.

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