I didn’t want him to be a mason like me, says father of Arshad Nadeem after his son’s CWG 90.18m javelin gold medal

At the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham on Sunday, Pakistan’s Arshad Nadeem won gold in the javelin throw and underscored his status as a world-class athlete. With his effort of 90.18m, Nadeem cleared a barrier that even Indian Olympic gold medalist Neeraj Chopra failed to clear. While Chopra missed those Games through injury, in the coming days the healthy on-court rivalry between the two friends is set to intensify – with both urging the other to throw the javelin further. Chopra’s best is 89.94m.

On his way to gold, Arshad Nadeem broke the record and even pushed World Championship gold medalist Anderson Peters, who threw 88.64m, into second place.

The city of Mian Channu in Pakistani Punjab stayed up late to take advantage of the historic occasion. His father Muhammad Ashraf, a mason by profession, despite the late hour was awake to witness the greatest moment of his son’s career.

Nadeem who got into javelin throwing had a lot to do with his father’s passion for Nezabazi, a very popular rural sport in Pakistan, tent picketing. Like most men in town, Nadeem, after a tiring day’s work, would head down to the ground to watch the riders show off their daredevils. His son would also accompany him. At his father’s insistence, Nadeem would take over Nezabazi and train every day. This would make the young boy familiar with the vast grounds of the city and expose him to different outdoor sports.

Nadeem was soon to switch to cricket, but it was a school athletics event where the big youngster’s javelin throwing talent was identified. Under coach Rasheed Ahmad Saqi, Nadeem would practice spear throwing.

The third eldest of eight siblings, Nadeem’s father made sure his athletic son always got his share of milk and ghee. “At the time, I was earning 400 to 500 a day from contract work and it was difficult to manage things for all the children. But I made sure that Nadeem would get milk and ghee to grow into a well-built youngster. I didn’t want him to work like me and I always wanted him to lead a good life, which he ensured with his performances, ”says the father.

Nadeem had modest goals when he began to seriously practice javelin throwing. Seeking a government job to support his family, he participated in the sports quota trials for the Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA). There, his 55m throw would catch the eye of five-time Pakistani national champion and former Asian medalist javelin thrower Syed Hussian Bukhari.

Arshad Nadeem with coach Syed Hussain Bukhari. (PhotoExpress)

Nadeem would be called by the coach for a meeting after the trials. Bukhari, who is believed to be training in various terrains in Lahore, is said to be urging senior WAPDA authorities to give Nadeem a chance for the sports quota position on his guarantee that the youngster would clear the 60m mark in two months, an established standard for the javelin. pitchers in testing.

“When I first saw Arshad, I was impressed by his strong arms at such a young age and saw a spark in him. Even though he threw 55m at tryouts, I was sure that if trained in a proper setup, he would only improve. Joining the hostel meant he had a good diet. It also improved his training technique. In two months, he crossed 60m and four months later, at the age of 18, he cleared 70m with a throw of 70.46m in the Pakistan National Championship in 2015,” Bukhari shares.

While Bukhari trained javelin throwers on almost every available ground in Lahore, including the Punjab Athletics Association athletics track near Gaddafi Stadium, it was Arshad’s bronze medal at the Asian Games and the participation in the Tokyo Olympics, which saw interest in the javelin grow in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s Arshad Nadeem reacts after winning gold. (Reuters)

“I’ve seen times when I was traveling on my motorcycle carrying the javelin and going to practice near the shore and the ground and people asking me, ‘What sport do you play with those sticks?’ . At that time, I was friends with Indian champion Ramandeep Singh who regularly threw over 80m. I always dreamed of the day when Pakistani youth would aspire to become javelin throwers. Arshad and your champion Neeraj Chopra helped us achieve the dream,” the coach recalls.

Less than three years after breaking the 70m mark in 2015, Arshad broke the 80m mark with a throw of 80.75m at the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games. The past four years have seen Arshad break the 80m mark. 85m four times with a Best Throw of 86.38m at the Imam Reza Cup in Iran last year.

Bukhari recalls the first time Nadeem and Neeraj faced each other. “It was at the 2016 South Asain Games in Guwahati where Neeraj and Nadeem faced each other where Neeraj won gold and Arshad won bronze. Later it was at the Asian Championships in Bhubaneswar in 2017 they competed together Javelin throwers in Pakistan as well as your country India are well knit and each of us would observe each other.It was the same with Arshad watching Chopra.When Arshad won the medal of bronze at the Asian Games in Jakarta and that Neeraj Chopra congratulated him, he showed him not only respect as a Pakistani athlete, but also as a javelin thrower,” says Bukhari.

“Everything Neeraj has achieved after the World Junior Gold Medal is due to his hard work and we Pakistanis appreciate that too. When Neeraj topped his respective qualifying group in Tokyo and Arshad topped the second qualifying group, the conversation was about Neeraj vs. Arshad and this also helps to raise awareness among young people about the javelin, whether seen as a competition or a healthy rivalry.

While Bukhari remained in Lahore due to a last minute decision by the Pakistan Olympic Association, he hopes the CWG medal will create the same ripple effect in Pakistan as Chopra’s gold medal in India. “After Arshad’s bronze medal at the Asian Games and his qualification for the Tokyo Olympics, I can say that I could see 30 to 40 javelin throwers in almost all the training grounds in Lahore. In recent months, I have seen young people from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and areas near the Pakistan-China border come to inquire about the Lahore trials. What Neeraj did for India, Arshad’s Olympic participation and today’s record can do the same in Pakistan,” says the coach.

And with his ward now crossing the 90m mark and Chopra also closing in on the 90m, the coach has only one desire. “Most of the time Arshad also trains at Jinnah stadium in Islamabad and Lahore, my wish is to see Arshad and Neeraj face off in a crowded stadium in Lahore or Islamabad. Neeraj is also like our son. Pakistani, I promise you that if Neeraj wins, we will give him the same love we gave to Milkha Singh Ji when he won against Abdul Khaliq in Lahore in 1960. Athletes share a common bond of love for sport,” says Bukhari.

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