Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra has become the first Indian to win a gold at the World Athletics Championships, pipping Pakistan’s Arshad Nadeem in the men’s javelin final with an 88.17-metre throw.
Chopra won Olympic gold in Tokyo in 2021 but managed only a silver at the world championships in the United States last year.
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The only other Indian to win a medal in the world championships earlier was Anju Bobby George, who took bronze in the women’s long jump in 2003 in Paris.
Pakistan’s Nadeem, coming back from elbow surgery and a knee injury, produced his season’s best effort of 87.82 metres on his third attempt to win the silver medal, while the Czech Republic’s Jakub Vadlejch took the bronze with an 86.67-metre effort.
The Olympic champion becomes the javelin throw world champion ☄️
— World Athletics (@WorldAthletics) August 27, 2023
“This was great. After the Olympic gold, I really wanted to win the world championships. I just wanted to throw further. This is brilliant for the national team but it was my dream to win gold at the world championships,” Chopra said.
“This has been a great championship for India and I am proud to bring another title to my country. I don’t think I am the best thrower here. I wanted to throw more tonight.”
Nadeem was competing in his first event of the year and as soon as the javelin landed on his third attempt, he broke into a wide grin as he moved up to second.
Arshad Nadeem – So happy for Neeraj bhai!. India and Pakistan are 1 and 2 in the world. Inshallah we will be 1-2 at the Olympics. pic.twitter.com/opl3bd1NZR
— jonathan selvaraj (@jon_selvaraj) August 27, 2023
Medal-winning ‘friends’ celebrate together
India and Pakistan may have a heated rivalry in cricket but on a warm night in Budapest, all eyes were on two athletes competing for javelin gold.
Both of them have been vocal in lending support to one another despite the fraught relationship between the countries.
Nadeem, speaking after Sunday’s final, said he was delighted for Chopra’s success and that both countries finished on the podium.
Once the medals were handed out and the athletes were celebrating on the track, Chopra asked Nadeem to join him for a photo. They then stood close with their arms around each other.
Sport and sportsmanship don't know any boundaries.
Here is Neeraj Chopra calling Pakistan's Arshad Nadeem to pose with him in the photo after World Athletics Final.
— Himanshu Pareek (@Sports_Himanshu) August 28, 2023
‘Symbol of unparalleled excellence’
Leaders and celebrities in both South Asian nations took to social media to congratulate the athletes.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Chopra a “symbol of unparalleled excellence in the entire sports world” in a post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
The talented @Neeraj_chopra1 exemplifies excellence. His dedication, precision and passion make him not just a champion in athletics but a symbol of unparalleled excellence in the entire sports world. Congrats to him for winning the Gold at the World Athletics Championships. pic.twitter.com/KsOsGmScER
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 28, 2023
Sakshi Malik, India’s Olympic medal-winning wrestler, led the congratulatory tweets by the country’s sports stars and said Chopra was “an inspiration for all athletes”.
WORLD CHAMPION 🥇@Neeraj_chopra1 with a massive 88.17m throw to win the World Championship title in javelin.
Such an inspiration for all athletes! Congratulations 👏👏#WorldAthleticsChamps #Javelin pic.twitter.com/xhsCvZF1hX
— Sakshee Malikkh (@SakshiMalik) August 28, 2023
‘Worth more than gold’
Across the border, Pakistani social media was also abuzz with delight for Nadeem, with many saying his feat was remarkable despite a lack of support and facilities in the cricket-obsessed nation.
“What a day!” the country’s caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar ul Haq Kakar posted on X. “You’ve made the nation happy.”
What a day! What a moment of joy for 🇵🇰 @ArshadOlympian1 You’ve made the nation happy and proud for your excellent sportsmanship that won you—and the country—a silver medal at the World Athletics championship 👏👏 pic.twitter.com/ed6Ty2zscZ
— Anwaar ul Haq Kakar (@anwaar_kakar) August 28, 2023
Former Pakistani cricket captain Wasim Akram said Nadeem’s silver medal was “worth more than a gold”.
“You don’t get the top level facilities other athletes get, but you still excelled. So pleasing that we are celebrating achievement other than in cricket!” he posted on X.
Take a bow Arshad Nadeem… the whole Pakistan is celebrating your silver medal … worth more than a gold … in World Athletics Championship. Why I said it’s worth more than a gold is that you don’t get the top level facilities other athletes get, but you still excelled. So… pic.twitter.com/sG6ZA9alNw
— Wasim Akram (@wasimakramlive) August 28, 2023
Javeria Khan, a member of the Pakistani women’s cricket team, said Nadeem had written his “success story” all by himself and without “strong backing”. She said it was “time to give him [Nadeem] what he deserves”.
Arshad Nadeem has written this success story himself by his sheer hardwork without strong backing.
People like Arshad remind us and the system time and again that if we invest where it is needed, then there is no one stopping us.
Arshad is a league of his own. Time to give… pic.twitter.com/CFrC0XLCRd
— Javeria Khan (@ImJaveria) August 27, 2023