BUDAPEST: When Arshad Nadeem saw the javelin land on his third attempt, he looked up and smiled for the world.
A season’s best throw of 87.82 metres at the World Athletics Championships on Sunday had lifted Arshad from sixth to second place in the javelin throw final, only behind India’s Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra.
Chopra had set the bar with his first legitimate throw on the second attempt when he threw the javelin 88.17 metres.
In the next three throws, Arshad tried to reel in those 35 centimetres but couldn’t conjure up the 90.18-metre throw that saw him clinch gold at the Commonwealth Games last year.
Arshad still made history in the Hungarian capital, winning Pakistan’s first medal at the biennial track and field spectacle with his second-placed finish and showing he can end Pakistan’s long Olympic medal drought at next year’s Games in Paris.
His achievement becomes even more remarkable considering the fact that this was his first international appearance in a year.
Arshad underwent surgeries on his elbow and knee after winning gold at last year’s Islamic Games and then had an extensive rehabilitation programme.
He’d shown he was back to his best when he threw 86.79 metres in qualifying on Friday, but he’d saved his best for the final — even though he had a far from ideal start.
His first throw gained height but not the distance, travelling just 74.80 metres — a mark not enough for a place in the top eight, who would go the distance in the final.
But just like he’d done in qualifying, Arshad kept getting better with each throw. When his javelin found the 82.81-metre mark on his second attempt, he went momentarily fourth overall, but eventually ended the round at sixth.
With his third throw, however, he was in gold contention, with just Chopra ahead of him and the rest of the field — having been trimmed from 12 to eight after the first three rounds — playing catch-up.
Arshad tried his best to reel in Chopra — India’s first gold medalist in history at the Worlds — and his fourth attempt hitting the 87.15-metre mark. He fouled his attempt in the fifth round, where the Czech Republic’s Jakub Vadlejch snatched third place from Germany’s Julian Weber (85.79m) with a throw of 86.67 metres.
The Pakistan-India battle for gold went to the final round where Arshad tried to raise the stakes but could only reach 81.86m. Silver secured, he prostrated with Pakistan finally having a medal to its name at athletics’ marquee event.
Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2023