So far the rivalry between India and Pakistan in sports has been limited to cricket. There used to be an equally intense rivalry in hockey, but both sides are way past their glory days now, and their meeting doesn’t draw much hype. However, it seems like Javelin Throw too has entered the race now. Both countries possess world-beaters in the discipline, and they’re going to be up against each other in a number of big-ticket events in the near future.
On Sunday, Arshad Nadeem ended Pakistan’s 56-year medal drought in track and field by bagging a gold medal in the men’s javelin throw at Commonwealth Games 2022. Nadeem also became the first South Asian athlete to breach the hallowed 90m mark – achieving his personal best of 90.18m in his fifth attempt. In the process, Nadeem outsmarted the current world champion Anderson Peters and the former world champion Julius Yego.
Nadeem is perhaps the most popular Pakistani athlete in India, thanks to his camaraderie with Olympics medallist Neeraj Chopra. Soon after winning the gold medal at Birmingham, Nadeem talked about how sorely he missed Chopra’s presence in the event.
“Neeraj ki mujhe kami mehsoos hui hai. Woh hote toh aur bhi mazaa aata. (I felt Neeraj’s absence today while competing. If he was there competing today, it would have been even more fun). We’re really good friends,” said Nadeem.
“Injuries are part and parcel of the sport. I hope the Almighty gives him good health too. I want to use this occasion to wish him luck for the upcoming events.”
Although they are rivals on the field, the solidarity both show towards each other is exemplary, something rarely seen if the rivalry is between India and Pakistan. Both have stood for each other in times of crisis. After Chopra won the historic silver medal at World Athletics Championship 2022, he went to Nadeem and congratulated him for his 86.16m effort, which was the fifth best in the tournament.
“I spoke to Arshad after the competition ended,” Neeraj Chopra said. “I told him that he did very well. He replied that he had issues with his elbow. I further congratulated him for a great throw.
Ahead of Tokyo 2022 javelin final, Arshad found himself in a tricky situation. He was accused of tampering with Chopra’s medal-winning spear by the Indian fans. The Indian athlete took to Twitter and slammed both the fans and some sections of media for using his name to put forth their vile agenda.
“There was nothing wrong with Arshad Nadeem using my javelin to prepare. It is within rules, and please do not use my name to push a dirty agenda,” Neeraj Chopra had said.
The friendship, however, goes to back 2016, when both of them participated in South Asian Games. For a generation of sports watchers growing up listening to the tales of scuffles between Shahid Afridi and Gautam Gambhir, or Venkatesh Prasad and Aamir Sohail, the bond Neeraj and Arshad share comes as refreshing. On the field, they are fierce rivals; off it, they are good mates. That’s how sporting rivalries should be.
Lead image: Arshad Nadeem/instagram