PAKISTAN CROSSED THE HOLY GRAIL MARK IN
COMMONWEALTH GAMES 2022
After 12 days of enthralling sporting action, the 22nd Commonwealth Games came to a close, on 8th of August, with a grand closing ceremony at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham. The international event – held from 28th of July to 8th of August 2022 – remained majorly dominated by Australia as the Kangaroos claimed 178 medals including 67 gold, 57 silver and 54 bronze while the hosts England finished at the second position. Athletes from 72 countries contested in 12 disciplines including aquatics (swimming), athletics, para-athletics, boxing, badminton, gymnastics, hockey, judo, squash, table tennis, weightlifting and wrestling.
Pakistan managed to secure 18th position with eight medals: two gold, three silver and three bronze medals. Pakistan’s Arshad Nadeem, wearing strapping around his right arm, gave his country its first javelin gold with a Games record mark of 90.18 metres. He bowed out after winning a gold medal in record-setting fashion, ending a 56-year streak of not winning a medal in track and field. It is of great importance, it is unbelievable, against all odds, that Arshad, who entered the field without his coach and with an elbow taped due to injury, came out on top in a competition that included world champion Anderson Peters, former Olympic champion Keshorn Walcott and former Commonwealth Games champion Julius Yego. This is Pakistan’s first athletics medal at the Games, and the country’s first gold, in javelin since 1966, four years after Muhammad Nawaz won silver at the inaugural edition of the Games in 1954 and Jalal Khan in 1958 got the second position.
Arshad had high hopes of winning a medal at the Games and showed his dangerous ambitions with his first throw. He bettered his personal best three times that evening and threw 86.61 metres in his first attempt. A foul made no difference in his second attempt as Arshad once again improved on his best performance with a perfect 88m throw. However, at the end of each attempt, the 25-year-old would experience sharp pain, especially in his right elbow, which he has been suffering from since last year’s Tokyo Olympics, where he finished fifth. He also finished in the same position in the recent World Championship. Arshad’s fourth throw was just over the 85m mark but two rounds were still to go and the Pakistani star was in the lead. Before the final round, Arshad was finally overtaken by Peters with a throw of 88.64 and he started celebrating as if this throw would be enough for his victory but his joy was short-lived. Then, Arshad crossed the ‘holy grail’ mark of the sport with a throw of 90.18 metres, becoming only the second Asian, after Taiwan’s Chao Soon Cheng (91.36 metres), to cross the mark. He also broke South African Marius Corbett’s Games record of 88.75 metres which he had set in 1998. Peters, who won the gold medal with a throw of over 90 metres at the World Championships in Oregon, tried to overtake Arshad with his final throw but failed to do so, winning the silver medal with a throw of 85.70 metres. Kenya’s Yago bagged the bronze.
Arshad Nadeem was born in my hometown Mian Channu, a small city in Khanewal District, and grew up in poverty as one of nine children of a daily-wager. His current and former coaches say he reached the top despite a lack of financial resources and government support. The athlete has urged the government to improve facilities, increase funding and invest in the wellbeing of players. He said, “If facilities are improved, I can perform well in the 2024 Olympics.” Arshad trained with Terseus Liebenberg in South Africa for two months earlier this year, but he returned and continued his preparation in Lahore, where he did not even have a specialized gym but used Punjab University facilities along with his coach Salman Butt.
Arshad Nadeem’s gold was Pakistan’s second in Birmingham as the first one was won by Nooh Dastgir Butt. In a show of spectacular dominance, Nooh Butt claimed the first gold medal for Pakistan in the 22nd Commonwealth Games in the men’s 109+ kg category. Nooh Butt was born on February 3, 1998, in Gujranwala. He belongs to a Kashmiri weightlifting family. His father Ghulam Dastgir Butt, who also participated in the international weightlifting events, himself coached Nooh and his brother Hanzala Dastgir Butt (weightlifter, who also participated in CWG 2022). The 24-year-old Pakistan powerhouse produced a stunning performance as the tightly-packed crowd roared his name. Butt, who was at his best, set heavier weight targets from the outset to lift gold with a combined record-breaking total of 405kg. In the snatch portion, he kicked off his participation in style by lifting 170kg in his first attempt with quite an ease. He set a new Games record when he lifted 173kg in the second lift. The lift was reviewed on video; however, the jury confirmed it legitimate. In his final attempt, Butt thought he had registered 175kg, but it was ruled a no lift. In Clean and Jerk, Butt lifted 225kg and 232kg and did not need to go for a third lift. New Zealand’s David Andrew Liti remained runner-up to win silver for his effort of 394kg (170kg+224kg), while India’s Gurdeep Singh secured bronze with a total lift of 390kg (167kg+223kg). Butt had earned a bronze medal in Gold Coast 2018 in what was then the 105+kg category for the heavyweights.
Besides these two gold medal-winners, Pakistani wrestlers remained the major contributor to the country’s medal tally as Inam Butt, Zaman Anwar, and Sharif Tahir bagged a silver each. Wrestlers Inayatullah and Ali Asad managed to bag a bronze apiece, while Shah Hussain Shah claimed bronze in judo.
The writer is a PhD scholar (English Literature). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org