Indian gold medalist pushes back against ‘dirty agenda’ after remarks on Pak athlete using his javelin

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File: Neeraj Chopra became a national sensation after he won a gold medal for India in the men's javelin throw in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (Getty Images)
File: Neeraj Chopra became a national sensation after he won a gold medal for India in the men's javelin throw in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (Getty Images)

India’s star athlete Neeraj Chopra has pushed back on criticism leveled against his Pakistani counterpart Arshad Nadeem, who he earlier said was carrying the javelin he was supposed to use for his first throw during the Tokyo Olympics final.

Chopra, who won the only gold medal for India, issued a clarification on his earlier remarks using Twitter and said those remarks were being twisted for “propaganda”.

In a recent interview, Chopra said he was unable to find his personal javelin right before his first throw during the Olympic finals on 7 August. He said he later saw Nadeem “moving around” with the javelin.

“I was searching for my javelin at the start of the final [in the Olympics]. I was not able to find it. Suddenly, I saw Arshad Nadeem was moving around with my javelin,” he had told the Times of India newspaper.

“Then I told him, ‘Bhai [brother] give this javelin to me, it is my javelin. I have to throw with it. He gave it back to me. That’s why you must have seen I took my first throw hurriedly(sic),” he said in the interview.

The comments from the gold medalist ended up causing a furore after some social media users accused Nadeem of deliberately hindering Chopra, an interpretation the Indian player said was blown out of proportion.

Chopra has now issued a clarification asking people to stop the “propaganda aimed at pushing a dirty agenda”.

“I would request everyone to please not use me and my comments as a medium to further your vested interest and propaganda,” Chopra said in a video, in the Hindi language, uploaded on his Twitter handle.

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“Sports teaches us to be together and united. I’m extremely disappointed to see some of the reactions from the public on my recent comments,” he said in the video.

“There was nothing wrong with Arshad Nadeem using my javelin to prepare, it is within rules and please do not use my name to push a dirty agenda,” he added.

Any javelins submitted to officials by a participant can be used by other competitors as well, according to the rules cited by news agency Press Trust of India. The rule is applicable to all field events, except pole vaulting.

Chopra’s comment comes at a time when some Indian sports stars have been perceived as taking sides with bigoted and nationalistic rhetoric online.

Several Indian Twitter users lauded Chopra for his move. “Terrific. And rare, these days, to have personalities, sports or otherwise, speaking out against bigotry and hate,” one user wrote.

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“It is unfortunate that every word uttered these days are used for vested interests. Words are twisted to fit their needs & agendas. But I appreciate that you came up with your side of the story to clear the air,” another user wrote.

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“Neeraj Chopra could have remained silent but he ‘amicably’ called out the Indian right-wing for using his Olympic victory to spread islamophobic hatred,” another user said. “In the India of today, this requires guts.”

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“Neeraj Chopra showed more nationalism in a one tweet than the entire Cricket and Bollywood together in their lifetime,” another user wrote.

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Chopra’s earlier comments had generated Islamophobic reactions online, primarily among the right-wing support base of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party led by prime minister Narendra Modi.

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Chopra, who is the second Indian to win an individual Olympic gold medal, has become a major national sensation after his win in Tokyo.

While his new-found fame has led to several interviews, felicitation ceremonies and brand endorsements, he has also been outspoken on ensuring better training and more attention to building better sports infrastructure in a country where the dominating sport is cricket.

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