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Tokyo 2020: Pakistan's first finalist in Olympic track and field events nearly got lost to cricket

By Pti

Karachi, Aug 4: Arshad Nadeem, who became the first ever Pakistani to qualify for the final of a track and field competition in the Olympics, could easily have been lost to cricket had it not been for his brother who convinced him to take up athletics.

The 24-year-old who belongs to Mian Channu, a small town near Khanewal in the Punjab province, was a talented cricketer but having to work in the cotton and wheat fields didn't leave him with enough time for the game. "He was very athletic and strong and he couldn't get enough time for cricket although he was a very good all-rounder. I advised him to take up athletics as it consumed less time," his brother, Afzal said.

Mian Channu is famous for fertile cotton and wheat production lands and has produced some international level cricket and hockey players, but Arshad decided to make his name in track and field.

On Wednesday he went through to the final of the javelin throw competition which will be held on August 7. Arshad threw at a distance of 85.16 metres to qualify for the final where he will be pitted against India's Neeraj Chopra, the 2018 Commonwealth champion, who threw 86.65 metres with his first attempt and Germany's Johannes Vetter. Nadeem is the first Pakistani athlete in history to qualify for the final of any track and field event at the Olympics.

"Arshad is in very good form right now and he is feeling very confident ahead of the final," his brother said. Arshad, before leaving for Tokyo, had said in an interview that he never saw what the other competitors were doing and only focussed on what he was doing.

He has already had a taste for gold, having stood atop the podium at last year's South Asian Games in Nepal and he also took bronze at the 2018 Commonwealth Games behind gold medallist Neeraj Chopra.

Despite the lack of training facilities, international exposure and diet issues, Arshad threw the javelin to a distance of 86.39m (his personal bets) earlier this year, setting a national record during the Imam Reza championship in Iran.

In 2019, he threw 86.29m at the South Asian Games in Nepal. His coach, Fayyaz Hussain Bukhari, was the person who got him his first real break, in 2015, when he got him a job in the water and power board (Wapda), a government authority which is famous for nurturing sports talent for years now. It was in 2015 that Arshad appeared in the National Championships and broke the national javelin throw record to win gold.

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Story first published: Wednesday, August 4, 2021, 22:38 [IST]
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