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Monday, Nov 18, 2019

Give me a fair chance: Nikhat Zareen to BFI

Nikhat Zareen expressed disappointment after being informed of trials being scratched for 51kg division and Mary Kom getting a direct berth to represent India in the Tokyo Olympics.

other-sports Updated: Oct 16, 2019 23:50 IST
Avishek Roy
Avishek Roy
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
File photo of Nikhat Zareen.
File photo of Nikhat Zareen.(Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)
         

Nikhat Zareen was sombre. Disappointment was palpable in her voice. “All I am asking for is a fair chance (trials) which I was promised by the federation (Boxing Federation of India),” she said after being informed of trials being scratched for 51kg division and MC Mary Kom getting a direct berth to represent India in the Tokyo Olympics qualification event early next year. “Suddenly, everyone is ignoring me. My father spoke to a BFI official today and he said sorry, ‘I can’t help because BFI president (Ajai Singh) has taken the decision’. I was given a guarantee that the selection policy will not be changed.”

Mary Kom, 36, the 2012 London Olympics bronze medallist, is eyeing another medal bid, having just claimed bronze in the world championships in Russia, her first in 51kg. She has six world titles, all between 45 to 48 kg categories but Zareen had been desperate to face her senior in the trials for a berth in 51kg, the Olympic weight division. To add to her frustration the Russian 51kg world champion Liliya Aetbaeva had lost to Zareen at the Asian Youth Championships last year. The BFI had earlier decided that among women, finalists at the world championships will be rewarded with a berth in the first Olympic qualification event.

The Indian women’s team returned with one silver among four medals from the world championships. In the Olympic weight categories Mary Kom and Lovlina Borgohain (69kg) won bronze.

On Tuesday, BFI president Singh said the selection rule would be the same for men and women. However, for the second time this year, BFI has gone back on its word on the important issue of trials, raising questions over its selection criteria during the pre-Olympic period.

Zareen has been at the receiving end twice. In August, when trials were held for the world championships, BFI selectors exempted Mary Kom on the day of the bout after the draw for 51kg was made at the trials. Zareen and her father, Mohammad Jameel Ahmed, who had come from Hyderabad to Delhi to watch his daughter fight, were kept in the dark until the day before when they were informed that the 51kg trial was scrapped and Mary Kom was on board.

“It was so difficult to motive yourself after what happened,’ said Zareen.

“I am in the national camp since January, winning medals in international competitions. If you had no intention of sending me I should have been told that there is no space in 51kg, I would not have turned up this year. I would have prepared for 2024 Olympics, 2022 Asian Games and CWG. After one year you are telling me at the last minute there will be no selection trials in my category. Have some empathy for the athlete.”

Zareen, 23, was the first choice in 51kg until Mary Kom shifted from 48 kg. The younger boxer won gold at Standja Memorial, silver at Thailand Open and bronze medal at the Asian Championships. She is in the government’s Target Olympic Podium Scheme for the Tokyo Olympics.

Mary Kom has argued she beat Zareen at the India Open semi-finals in May. Zareen shot back, “so what, does it mean you will never face me again in the ring? Beat me in trials and go ahead, at least I will have the satisfaction.”