In a historic moment, Neeraj Chopra, the Olympic gold medalist, secured his place in history by becoming the first Indian to claim a gold medal in men’s javelin throw at the 2023 World Athletics Championships held in Budapest, Hungary. This achievement was complemented by Pakistani athlete Arshad Nadeem, who clinched the second position in the same event, while Jakub Vadlejch from the Czech Republic took the third spot.
The emergence of Indian and Pakistani athletes in javelin throw, once predominantly dominated by Europeans, had garnered significant attention from sports enthusiasts. However, the narrative often focused on the India-Pakistan rivalry, despite Neeraj Chopra and Arshad Nadeem publicly expressing mutual respect for each other through various media interactions.
Recently, a heartwarming video featuring Neeraj Chopra’s mother, Saroj Devi, gained widespread attention online. In the video, a reporter posed a provocative question to Saroj Devi regarding her son’s victory over a Pakistani player at the World Athletics Championships. Instead of succumbing to the bait of the India-Pakistan rivalry, Saroj Devi chose the path of sportsmanship and grace. She emphasized that on the sports field, a player is merely a player. Saroj Devi expressed her joy that a Pakistani player, Arshad Nadeem, had also achieved success. Her words resonated with the sentiment that victory transcends national borders. She articulated, “See, everyone has come to play on the field. One of them is bound to win. So, whether they are from Pakistan or Haryana doesn’t matter. I’m equally happy for the Pakistani player who won.”
The response to the video had been overwhelmingly positive. Users showered Saroj Devi with praise for her grace and sportsmanship. One user playfully commented, “The reporter was fishing for controversy! Auntie gracefully shared sweets instead. What a gem.” Another user emphasized the essence of sportsmanship, saying, “Neeraj Chopra’s mother embodies true sportsmanship. Her words reminded us that the spirit of sports transcends borders and nationalities. The real essence of competition lies in celebrating everyone’s achievements.”
Despite being fierce competitors on the field, both Neeraj and Arshad Nadeem’s camaraderie off the field set a remarkable example. During the Tokyo Olympics final in 2021, Neeraj came to the defense of his Pakistani counterpart when Arshad faced controversy for practicing with Neeraj’s javelin and was accused of “tampering” with the Indian’s gold medal-winning spear. Neeraj Chopra firmly stated, “There was nothing wrong with Arshad Nadeem using my javelin to prepare. It is within the rules, and please do not use my name to push a dirty agenda.”
Even at the Budapest World Championships, the Indian athlete invited Nadeem to join him for a photo-op. Their heartwarming moments resonated across social media and conveyed a message of unity to both nations.