“The key is to never give up, persist and understand that if there are going to be no difficulties, then there isn’t going to be any progress,” says javelin thrower Arshad Nadeem as he is looking for the podium finish at the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon to become the first Pakistani to do so.
Arshad’s event will kick off on July 21 and the finals will take place on July 23. The Olympian is eager to do his best despite an elbow injury that he had picked up last year before the Olympics.
Arshad raised the status of the country at the global stage when he became the first Pakistani to win the bronze medal at the Asian Games in 2018, and then took it further when he qualified for the Olympics track and field events directly. He had hit the mark of 86.29 metres at the 2019 South Asian Games in Nepal, while he had been making a steady path to the moment with bronze in the 2017 Islamic Solidarity Games.
The 25-year-old is now more experienced than ever, and he feels at the event his biggest challenge will be to beat his own limitations to win the medal. He has no number of metres on his mind this time and he is searching for the strength to stay at his best due to the on-going injury.
“My preparations have been good and I am going for the medal finish,” Arshad told The Express Tribune from Eugene, where he is training and left for the event on July 15. “The conditions are good over here and my aim is to make the best of this opportunity.
“I am not thinking in terms of what target can there be right now. My goal is to do my best because I have my elbow injury. It is under control and we have Dr Ali Bajwa from the UK with us, so my focus is to have a good finish. The medal is certainly on my mind.”
Arshad’s right elbow has been troubling him, and has been a challenge for him since last year, however he believes he is overcoming it each day, with each training session and he is not worried about it as long as he can give his all for Pakistan on the field.
Arshad saw the change in his training since his historic campaign at the Olympics. He is the first Pakistani to finish in the top five at the Games, and gave a good fight at his debut as well.
The 25-year-old no longer trains with his old coach, but had the opportunity to learn from South Africa’s Terseus Liebenberg, who was named the best coach according to the SA Athletics Statisticians. Liebenberg has been vital feature of Arshad’s plans when it comes to winning the medal.
The Athletics Federation of Pakistan sent Arshad and Mohammad Yasir to Johannesburg for two months in March. He added that he is feeling confident about his chances at the World Championships.
“I have learned a lot in two months from the South African coach. From recovery training to training for the competitions, then after coming back to Pakistan, I have been training well. I am feeling confident because of the hard work I have put in. Hard work and the ambition to achieve my goals have never failed me,” said Arshad.
He added that training for a few days in Eugene is helping him as the climate in Pakistan was very hot and was impeding progress.
“The weather in Eugene is good. In Pakistan I was feeling that the hot weather was difficult to train in. There was a bit of lethargy. The energy levels were not there, but of course I wanted to keep my morale high before arriving here, so I’m confident now,” said Arshad.
Finding motivation in tough places
Arshad’s journey from the Olympics in Tokyo till now has been transformative, not just for him but also for athletics as a discipline in Pakistan, a country that usually favours cricket over other sports.
From being a boy with big dreams in a village near Mian Channu, to now being the premier track and field athlete and leading the nation at the World Championships in javelin throw, Arshad’s story has inspired many.
He has a brave yet flexible approach to life and the game.
“I have seen a lot of odds, and when a person keeps overcoming difficulties, the resolve becomes stronger. I have come so far now, I don’t want to fail at all. The mindset is to not give up and instead of focusing on the lack of things, I want to focus on what I have got.
“The difficult situations propel us to do better, the more difficulties we face the better we get at overcoming them. Slowly but sure with hard work and resolve things become better, so I find motivation in that. Also, everything depends on Allah, He helps,” said Arshad.
The World Championships will also be Arshad’s first event of the year.
He feels that he needs to focus on his form and not looking so much on how his competitors have been coming into the competition so far. It includes Tokyo Olympics gold medallist India’s Neeraj Chopra, who has hit the mark of 89.30 metres at Paavo Nurmi Games in Finland.
“I am not looking at others at all,” said Arshad. “I’m looking at what I can do and I am my biggest challenge here, because at the end of the day we are all fighting for excellence that we can achieve. It is us against ourselves.”
Times are changing
When asked what kind of changes he observed for the sport, he feels the response has been more than he expected.
In achieving his own dream, Arshad has opened the door for others as well, even though he initially wanted to be a cricketer but then opted for athletics at the behest of his coach Fiaz Bokhari.
“Of course, there has been a change. Before my appearance at the Olympics and my performance there, people only ever talked or thought about athletics about 20 to 30 percent. But now I see how younger players, children take on sticks and they pretend that it is the spear and they want to compete in javelin throw now. I go to my village and I see children and youngsters doing that, so it makes me happy, it makes me hopeful,” said Arshad.
His message to the Pakistanis is simple though. “If you want to achieve something then you must try and if there are no difficulties then then the experience is not complete, since there will be no progression and learning. So, work hard but do it with determination and with all of your heart so that your reach where you want to.”