KARACHI: “I know I won the Asian Games athletics medal after more than two decades for Pakistan, but people only think about cricket,” Pakistan’s star athlete and Asian Games javelin throw bronze-medallist Arshad Nadeem wonders often these days as he is sitting at home trying to find a way to qualify for the 2020 Olympics.
The 21-year-old became first Pakistani last year to get an athletics medal for the country at the Asian Games after Aqarab Abbas who had last gotten a medal in 1990 in hammer throw.
While Arshad had taken a chance switching from cricket to athletics, he was certain that he can make a name for himself in the world.
The son of a labourer at a construction site, belonging to Mian Chunnun, Khanewal, Arshad also wanted to make a point that a village-boy has enough potential to make his talent count.
After getting the Asian Games medal in Indonesia, where he registered 80.75 metres falling behind China’s Qizhen Liu and India’s Neeraj Chopra for the third place, Arshad feels time is running out as the 2019 Asian Athletics Championships are just around the corner in Qatar, Doha. The Championships may take place in April.
“For the last month and a half, I’m at home. I won the 2018 national championship too, with a little lesser distance then what I achieved at the Asian Games, but I need training, I need to train abroad to achieve that dream of going to Olympics,” said Arshad.
“Believe me I think more about Pakistan then my own home, I want people to know what a labourer’s son can do. I know I can do this, I have it in me, but I need training, a proper one, like athletes from other countries do. I can’t do it while being in Khanewal, in my village,” he added.
The father of one and a modest man that Arshad is at the age of 21, he understands the competition well.
He added that last year, before competing at the Commonwealth Games and picking an injury that affected his performance in Gold Coast, he had hit his personal best of 85m, but then the stiffness in his right side and injury pushed him back at the main event, but he made up for the lapse at the Asian games.
“I can improve,” said Arshad who stands at 6.1 feet tall. “I have the build, I have the dedication too. If I can hit a little more than 85m at the Asian Athletics Championships I can get a medal there as well, there is still three months at least, and I can turn things around for myself, but I need to train abroad for it.”
Arshad’s idol is none other than Chopra, who has been the gold-medallist at the last Asian Championships too. The two struck a chord at the Asian Games podium with warmth and appreciation for one another and Arshad said he had been in touch with Chopra after the Games.
“I haven’t spoken to him in more than a month, but I do text him. I’m at home right now, picking wood and doing other chores daily, with very little work out or training. We both are busy, he is busy training I think, he was telling me that he was going to train abroad,” said Arshad.
The Wapda athlete said that he would want to train in Finland or Germany to better his record and performance.
“I’m a quick learner, I know that,” said Arshad. “I’m happy with my own coach Faiz Bokhari too, but other nations are going ahead because they are investing in their athletes. In my village people ask me why I don’t have as many events as cricketers do and I have no answer but to say its Pakistan.”
The record for the Asian Championship gold medal will have to be more than 86m, while at the 2016 Olympics, Germany’s Thomas Rohler won the medal with 90.30m.
“It is tough competition, like in national championship in November I picked up my game in six throws I peaked at 79.40m, before that I began with 75m, but I have improved my international record progressively, so I have faith but not all the resources,” said Arshad.
His coach Bokhari said that the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) needs to pay attention as well as the youngster still has not received the cash award for his Asian Games performance.
Meanwhile, he was also snubbed by the Punjab Government and Sports Board Punjab (SBP) a few days ago, when they awarded cash prizes to other athletes but did not invite Arshad to the ceremony even.
“Arshad is a simple boy, but he has the talent that Pakistan need, that will take us ahead in international sports. Someone needs to tell the Federal Minister Inter-Provincial Coordination Dr Fehmida Mirza that there are deserving athletes, there is Arshad and that athletics can win medals for the country. Someone needs to tell the SBP and Punjab minister too, they just don’t care about talented and humble stars like Arshad.
“He hasn’t even received the money he was promised, and that is unfair, winning medals in international athletics events is not easy, but Arshad has gone against the odds to do so and they couldn’t even invite him to a ceremony to celebrate his success,” rued Bokhari.