EUGENE: With his third throw in the javelin final at the World Athletics Championships on Saturday, Arshad Nadeem made sure his challenge would stay alive till the very end.
The only athlete from Pakistan to have qualified for a final in the history of the championships, Arshad had made the final eight halfway through the event at Hayward Field but his effort of 82.05m meant he was last among them.
By then the 25-year-old knew he had to improve on his personal best if he was to create more history for Pakistan by winning the country’s maiden medal at track and field’s biennial extravaganza.
At that point, the bar had been set by 24-years-old defending champion Anderson Peters of Granada (90.46m). Peters, who would go on to retain his title, was followed by Czech Jakub Vadlejch (88.09m) and Germany’s Julian Weber (86.86m). Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra of India (86.37m) was fourth.
The target set, Arshad took aim. He conjured up a season-best 86.16m — 22 centimetres less than his all-time best — with his fourth throw. It moved him fifth and that’s where he finished in the end, after failing to improve further with his last two throws.
“It’s a performance that makes me hopeful for the future,” Arshad, who made history by becoming the first athlete from Pakistan to qualify for a track and field final at the Olympics in Tokyo last year, told reporters.
Arshad has been nursing an elbow injury since the Olympics, where he also finished fifth, and he competed on Saturday with his throwing arm taped.
“This was my first event since the Olympics so naturally I was a bit worried,” he informed. “The officials of the Athletics Federation of Pakistan, the doctors worked a lot to ensure I could compete here against the best in the world.”
With the Commonwealth Games set to begin later this month, Arshad was hopeful of a podium finish in Birmingham.
“I’m satisfied with my performance and will try my best to win a medal at the Commonwealths,” Arshad, who won bronze at the last Asian Games, added.
Arshad also received a word of praise for his performance from Chopra, who eventually took silver behind Peters.
Chopra and Arshad have competed against each other several times, including at the Asian Games in 2018 where the former took gold and his rival from Pakistan finished third.
“I spoke to Arshad after the competition ended,” Chopra told a virtual news conference. “I told him that he did very well. He informed me he had issues with his elbow.
“I further congratulated him for a great throw and it was a great comeback from injury. It was commendable that he threw the javelin over 86 metres.”
Chopra threw a best of 88.13m with his fourth throw to finish ahead of bronze medallist Vadlejch, who won silver in Tokyo, and fourth-placed Weber. His effort was beyond the 87.58m he produced in Tokyo, where he became the first Indian to win an individual athletics gold.
His silver medal in Eugene was India’s first at a World Championships and just the country’s second overall after Anju Bobby George took bronze in the women’s long jump in Paris in 2003.
But there was no catching Peters, who led the competition throughout and saved his best for last with a throw of 90.54m.
Peters was the only athlete to breach the 90m-mark, doing so three times in windy conditions at Hayward Field.
“Most of the throwers prefer the wind from behind but today we had a head wind,” Peters said. “So it was a bit challenging today but I pulled it off. To defend the title is not an easy task. I had to push myself.
“The last attempt, I already knew I was a champion but I was working on my technique in every throw and I finally got it through.”
Finland’s Lassi Etelatalo was sixth (82.70m). Moldova’s Andrian Mardare and Finland’s Oliver Helander also threw beyond 82 metres in seventh and eighth respectively.
Published in Dawn, July 25th, 2022