Olympian Arshad Nadeem created history as he became the first South Asian to cross the 90-metre barrier in the javelin throw and the first Pakistani in 60 years to claim the athletics gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham on Sunday night.
The 25-year-old created the Games record with the throw of 90.18m to clinch the gold medal, leaving behind his closest competitor and World Athletics Championships 2022 gold medallist Grenada’s Anderson Peters.
Arshad made history in his fifth attempt right after Peters equalised his lead of 88.0m.
Arshad began strongly despite a long-standing elbow injury he had been carrying since before the Tokyo Olympics and another soft tissue trauma injury in the knee.
He was competing without his personal coach as well.
He threw the spear at 86.81m in the first attempt, which was his personal best till that moment, but that was just the beginning for Arshad’s fairy-tale run at the Games.
The athlete from Mian Channu, Khanewal, was not settling for anything less than the gold medal, and none of the 13 competitors were coming close to him except for Peters.
His second attempt was deemed invalid, however that only made Arshad hungrier for the excellence he knew he can achieve.
Arshad engaged the crowd by raising his hands and clapping to see the spectators get behind his throw.
Arshad, who is also the father of two, was seen pacing and praying as he waited for his fellow competitors to take their turns. Arshad was in the zone, most certainly spiritually, and braved his injuries through.
He bolted in 88.00m in the third attempt with 85.09 and visibly seemed in pain, as he touched his heavily taped elbow.
It is the elbow that is requiring Arshad to go through a surgery. “I waited for these events to happen, I waited for a year, I didn’t compete at all, but I wanted to play for Pakistan at the World Athletics Championships, then the Commonwealth Games and then Islamic Solidarity Games. These events are important for me, so I did not go for the surgery. I hustled through it so I can do something for my country,” Arshad had told The Express Tribune before coming to Birmingham from Eugene, Oregon where he finished fifth at the World Championships.
In the final, Arshad lived up to his words as he made history for the entire South Asian region and stunned the world with 90.18m throw in the fifth attempt.
He was already declared a winner when Peters threw his spear at 85.50m.
Arshad threw at 81.29m in his sixth and last attempt.
Arshad’s physician Dr Asad Abbas had told The Express Tribune that the 2018 Asian Games bronze medallist has been 90 to 95 percent better physically compared to few weeks ago.
In the final, Arshad seemed to be in better form than in Eugene, Oregon.
Arshad trained with Terseus Liebenberg in South Africa for two months earlier this year, but he returned and continued his preparation in Lahore, where he did not even have a specialised gym and was forced to use Punjab University facilities under the supervision of his coach Salman Butt.
Arshad became the first Pakistani in 2019 to qualify for the athletics event at the Olympics. He finished fifth in Tokyo.
With his gold medal, Pakistan bowed out of the Commonwealth Games with two gold, three silver and three bronze medals.
Earlier, weightlifter Nooh Dastgir Butt took the gold medal in +109kg event where he too created the Games record by lifting 405kg and made a record in overall total with 173kg, in snatch and clean and jerk with 232kg.
Other medallists include wrestlers Zaman Anwar in 125kg freestyle event, Muhammad Inam in 86 kg event, Muhammad Sharif Tahir in 74kg event; they bagged silver medals.
Judoka Shah Hussain Shah took the first medal for Pakistan in 90kg event, Inayatullah took another in the 65kg freestyle wrestling and Ali Asad in the 57kg wrestling event.