ISLAMABAD: Pakistanis celebrated on Monday a historic win by javelin athlete Arshad Nadeem as he nabbed a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games, becoming the first from the South Asian country to achieve the feat.
Nadeem snatched the title in a fifth-round throw of 90.18 meters, breaking a new record at the event, where he now holds the title of the longest throw recorded by a South Asian athlete.
The 25-year-old beat world champion Anderson Peters of Grenada, who took silver on Sunday evening with a throw of 88.64 meters, while Kenya’s Julius Yego took the bronze with an 85.70 meter throw.
Nadeem’s victory reverberated throughout Pakistan on Monday, as people took to social media to congratulate the athlete and celebrate his win.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that Nadeem’s gold win was “amazing news” that brought pride to the country.
“Arshad Nadeem has done Pakistan proud,” Sharif wrote on Twitter. “His consistency, passion and hard work hold lessons for our youth. Congratulations, Arshad, on your brilliant achievement.”
Pakistan’s army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa said that Nadeem had given an exceptional performance and was the “pride of the nation and our national hero.”
Nadeem, once a poor boy from Khanewal in Punjab, had beaten all odds to become the first Pakistani in history to win javelin gold at the Commonwealth Games. He is one of nine children of a daily wage laborer and had shown great versatility as an athlete from a young age while dabbling in all kinds of sports at school, from cricket to football and badminton.
Though his family lacked the financial means to encourage Nadeem’s enthusiasm for sports, the boy’s spirit earned him the support he needed, with his elder brothers working to help him build a career in sports. He caught the eye of Rasheed Ahmad Saqi when he was only 12 years old. Saqi eventually became Nadeem’s first coach and mentor, and trained him for javelin throw.
Nadeem won his first bronze medal representing Pakistan at the 2016 South Asian Games in India with a best throw of 78.33 meters. In 2019, at the 13th South Asian Games in Nepal, he won a gold medal with an 86.29 meter-games record throw.
Shehzad Ghias Shaikh, a Pakistani YouTuber and comedian, called Nadeem an “absolute legend.”
He said on Twitter: “With hardly any support or resources, this man has done the impossible.”
Pakistani athletes have long complained of a lack of official support in training and infrastructure, but this year’s delegation at the ongoing Commonwealth Games has so far won eight medals.
Pakistani musician Zuliqar Khan said that Nadeem’s victory is “a story of a champion.”
He added: “A champion from Pakistan. I don’t remember a better example of perseverance in Pakistan sports.”