“I couldn’t sleep at night. I haven’t slept at all. I don’t think anyone did,” Pakistan’s history making javelin thrower Olympian Arshad Nadeem exclaimed as he was travelling towards the airport, after registering the record setting 90.18m throw at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
The 25-year-old became the first South Asian and second Asian to break the 90m barrier in javelin throw, while Pakistan won a gold medal in athletics for the first time in 60 years.
Arshad had been competing for Pakistan despite a long-standing elbow injury that has been diagnosed to be surgically treated. Arshad also sustained a soft tissue trauma injury in the knee, according to his physician and Pakistan Olympics Association (POA) medial committee member Dr Asad Abbas.
“I am just very happy and I am glad that the nation prayed for me,” Arshad told The Express Tribune. “I was very happy to give Pakistanis the good news and fulfil the expectations.
“I have not slept at all tonight. I can say I wanted to sleep but then I didn’t want to sleep. I don’t think anyone slept at all. The entire nation was up with me.”
Arshad, being the humble youngster from Mian Chunnu, and keeping his family in his heart believes that it was the prayers that helped him win the gold medal.
“I achieved the feat thanks to Allah, my parents and because of all the Pakistanis who have been so supportive,” said Arshad while travelling to the Birmingham airport.
Arshad has two beautiful children, a daughter and a son, but he has not been able to steal even a few moments for them after the event.
“I spoke to my wife at home, my family, but I still have not been able to catch up with my children,” said the young man.
The ride from Sunday night till now has been wild.
According to the Chef de Mission Syed Mohammad Abid Qadri the remaining players who have not left for Turkey to compete at the Islamic Solidarity games joined in the celebrations.
“No one is sleeping tonight,” said Qadri on the night of Arshad’s win. “I have arranged a celebration over here in England. We couldn’t find karahi, but we got tikkas (barbeque), naans and even got Biryani on a short notice for Arshad.
“We are all getting together, will offer prayers of gratitude together, and then carry on with the celebration and have food.”
The Pakistani officials had arranged a direct flight for Arshad to Istanbul from Birmingham overnight, while earlier his schedule was different. In the javelin throw final Arshad’s performance was impeccable.
When asked if he is tired at this point by the quickness of everything Arshad was calm. “It is all a part of life and this all must be done. I haven’t slept out of excitement, then there is a lot of media attention and now I’ll be on the plane. I don’t want to be late.”
The POA secretary Khalid Mehmood is already in Turkey and he congratulated the Pakistani nation on Arshad’s feat. He was praising Arshad for creating the history.
Dope test right after making history
Right after winning the gold medal, Arshad was taken for a dope test. It is a regular procedure for the medallists to take the test.
Arshad’s massive improvement from 84.62m in the Tokyo Olympics to 86.16 at the World Athletics Championships, to now 90.18m at the Commonwealth Games has been meteoric in progression.
“I did take the dope test and I am confident,” said Arshad as he explained that this was a general procedure.
He revealed, “I also took the dope test in US before coming to Birmingham.”
The results of the test are expected to come in two to three weeks.
The moment frozen in time
Arshad’s fairy-tale run at the Commonwealth Games has been more about his sheer will to compete despite major injuries. He had delayed the surgery in his elbow just to be able to perform for Pakistan.
And, he lived up to his word in Brimingham.
Arshad has become an icon as he was the first Pakistani to win an Asian Games medal after nearly 30 years in athletics, then the first to qualify directly for the Olympics and then the first to even qualify for the finals of the Olympics.
Arshad took almost a year to wait for his comeback after the Tokyo Olympics and Commonwealth Games was his second event since resuming his international duties.
He trained in Lahore without any specialised gyms, he was without his personal coach and was with an injury before he brought on the performance on Sunday night.
He threw 86.81m in his first attempt and broke the national record along with setting a new personal best.
His first attempt was far better than his performance at the World Athletics Championship that took place in Eugene, Oregon in July, where he became the first athlete from Pakistan to ever qualify for the finals and he ended his comeback campaign in the fifth place.
He came to Brimingham right after the event, and continued his quest for a medal in the absence of his South African coach Terseus Liebenberg, with whom he trained for two months in Cape town and then Salman Butt also, who trained him in Lahore before flying for international duties.
Arshad was carrying the expectations of the entire nation on Sunday as it was also the last event where Pakistan was expected to win a medal.
While Arshad ran with more confidence in his second attempt, it was declared invalid, with pressure building on the 2018 Asian Games bronze medallist.
He was up against World Athletics Championship gold medallist, Grenada’s Anderson Peters, after all.
With the third attempt, Arshad set the lead of 88.0m, a massive throw which stunned the world, shifting the competition completely.
The rest of the throwers were seen chasing Arshad’s throw on the board, but all failed whereas Peters remained a stiff competition.
He threw the spear at the distance of 85.09m in the fourth attempt, while Peters took over Arshad’s lead in his fifth attempt with an 88.64m throw.
Arshad was pacing and seemed to be praying as he was going for his fifth attempt. He was certainly skirting on a spiritual plane it seemed.
Arshad was defying the laws of nature it seemed, trying to pull off a miracle, and arguably one of the greatest sporting moments for Pakistan.
He would hold his heaving taped elbow after each attempt, but his demeanor was calm. He was focused and controlled the competition.
He urged the crowd present to get behind him by raising his hands and clapping, asking for the cheers as he went for each attempt, and at last it was the fifth throw from him that created history with 90.18 metres recorded in distance.
He created a new Commonwealth Games record with his throw.
Arshad’s spear broke the record not only for Pakistan but for the South Asian region, even in the absence of Tokyo Olympics gold medallist and the defending champion India’s Neeraj Chopra.
It was not only the Pakistanis who were cheering him but the other 12 competitors in the event were cheering for him too, being worried and also surprised at the same time with his elbow.
When Anderson fell short in his sixth and last attempt to topple Arshad’s 90.18m, Arshad was unofficially declared the gold medallist, but the 2019 South Asian games winner went for his last attempt too and it was 81.29m.
Arshad Nadeem is the third Pakistani javelin thrower to win medals for Pakistan at the Commonwealth Games.
Previously, Jalal Khan grabbed bronze and silver medals for Pakistan at the 1954 and 1958 Games, while Muhammad Nawaz won the bronze medal in 1966.
The last gold medal won by Pakistan in the track and field event was in 1962 by Ghulam Raziq in the 120-yard hurdles. Hammer thrower Muhammad Iqbal won a gold for Pakistan in 1954 at the country’s debut in the Games.
Pakistan at 2022 Commonwealth Games
Earlier, Weightlifter Muhammad Nooh Dastgir Butt won a gold medal in +109kg event, where he too created the Games record by lifting 405kgs overall, with individual Games records in snatch (173kgs) and clean and jerk (232kgs) too.
Other medallists include wrestlers Zaman Anwar in 125kg freestyle event, Muhammad Inam in 86 kg event Muhammad Sharif Tahir in 74kg event. Both bagged silver medals.
Judoka Shah Hussain Shah took the first medal for Pakistan in 90kg event, a bronze one. Meanwhile, Inayatullah bagged a bronze medal in the 65kg freestyle wrestling and Ali Asad in the 57kg wrestling event.