Tokyo Olympics: India's Neeraj and Pakistan's Nadeem top their group in Javelin Throw qualification
Pakistan's Nadeem follows Neeraj Chopra's footsteps, tops his group and reaches the final of men's javelin throw in Tokyo Olympics.
The picture of Neeraj Chopra and Nadeem Arshad sharing a warm moment that defines the term 'sportsmanship' at its finest after the 2018 Asian Games Final had gone viral on social media, and for all the good reasons. Two countries so often embroiled in bitter conflict, political mudslinging, and animosity had been united in front of a million eyeballs and a thousand cameras by two budding, young athletes. Only sports could've done that!
On August 7, we might be able to see a picture like that once again – this time on the biggest stage in the world. 23-year-old Neeraj Chopra of India stormed into the final with a magnificent 86.65 on his very first attempt of the morning. 24-year-old Nadeem Arshad of Pakistan followed suit with an 85.16 on his second attempt.
In that viral picture from 2018, the two javelin throwers were seen shaking their hands at the victory podium, with their countries' respective flags draped around them. Indian tennis star Sania Mirza, married to Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik had tweeted that photo with the caption on why sports is the best educator.
"Teaches you sportsmanship, equality, respect, and most importantly humanity! If only some people can learn this from our champion athletes too," she said.
When asked about it, Neeraj said that it was just prompt sportsmanship from his end and that he was too consumed by the national anthem to even think about the repercussions of that moment.
"I did not realise (at that moment) that I was standing with them. Seeing the tri-colour and with the rendering of the national anthem, I was becoming emotional, remembering the struggle and hard work I have done to reach to this stage," Chopra told PTI.
However, the 23-year-old had made it clear that sports should be a vessel for unity, and there's no place for hatred here.
"Sports always teaches us to unite people, to be good towards your competitors. Sports is not meant to show hatred to others."
On that occasion, Nadeem had won the bronze medal with a throw of 80.75m. Neeraj had the gold medal decorated around his neck with a jaw-dropping 88.06m. Both athletes have improved by leaps and bounds since then and their top finishes in their respective groups today are a testament to the same. After clinching the bronze at the Asian Games, Nadeem who had ditched the cricket bat and ball to pick up the javelin had said that Neeraj was his inspiration.
They will now square off in the Javelin Throw final on August 7. A repeat of the picture from 2018 at the Olympics podium might be too far-fetched a dream, but what a moment it could prove to be! Sports do not care about boundaries and border conflicts, the spirit of sportsmanship cannot be muddled by the uneasiness of political diplomacies and tactics. It rises above, and certainly goes beyond, only leaving behind a blanket of competitiveness, fierce struggle, and jubilation in its wake.
On August 7, the greater part of the subcontinent will be cheering for the same.