'Until now focus was to get selected, now only looking to win a medal': Nikhat Zareen on World Championships aspirations
With the controversial chapter behind her, Nikhat Zareen is fiercely determined to deliver her best. She has already set a template and has her eyes on the prize two years from now when the Pairs Olympics come around.
Be it big or small, it is never easy to bounce back from a setback, but Nikhat Zareen, one of India's finest boxing talents, overcame her disappointments like a shining star. The 25-year-old missed being part of the Indian contingent in Tokyo after a selection controversy involving eight-time World Champion and London Olympics bronze medallist Mary Kom. However, with the controversial chapter behind her, Zareen is fiercely determined to deliver her best. She has already set a template and has her eyes on the prize two years from now when the Pairs Olympics come around.
Zareen marked her preparation with a commanding display at the 73rd Strandja Memorial Tournament, where she defeated Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Cakiroglu Buse Naz and a three-time European Championships medallist Tetiana Kob to secure a gold in the the flyweight (52kg) division. This was Zareen's second gold at the event, having already won the 2019 edition. Zareen believes the result will give her the much-needed confidence ahead of the World Championships, which will be held in May. Although the Nizamabad-based pugilist has already competed at the World event, this will be the first time she'll fight in the flyweight division.
"Recently I was selected for the World Championships and I'm happy that I get to represent my country. I'm looking forward to it and my training is also going well. Until now my focus was to get selected and now I'm only looking forward on winning a medal at the tournament," said Zareen when asked about her aspirations in an exclusive interaction with Hindustan Times. "I need to work on few mistakes, such as not doing enough clinching and holding, how to avoid it, and the different styles."
Zareen hopes to make the best of the busy calendar with Asian and Commonwealth Games also lined up to be held this year. "This experience will definitely boost my confidence for the Paris Olympics. And if I can win medals in these competitions, it will increase my faith that I can win medal in Paris too.
"Whatever mistakes I make in this competition, I have one more year to work on those mistakes and I'll know where I stand in the international circuit. So accordingly I can work on these things and prepare for Paris," said the 25-year-old.
'Outpunching every societal challenge'
Not only her opponents, Zareen has outpunched every societal challenge, which fell in her way to gain prominence in the ring. "When I started boxing many people used to criticise, especially orthodox mentality people, who think Muslim girls are not meant to do boxing. Who think they should be in parda and women should only study and get married.
"But still my father was very supportive, and I consider myself very lucky to have such father. He has always been my support system, never allowed me to listen to those critics and always told me to believe in yourself because nothing is impossible," she said.
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When Zareen started boxing, she was the only female to do it in the stadium. And it came at a cost of getting punched by boys, often leaving her in pain. However, it didn't stop her from following her dreams. "When you get hit, you start crying and give-up but in my case I cried but I took it 'how can he hit me, next time I'll show him'. So I took it in a positive way and then turned the table," the pugilist said.
'Every women should learn boxing'
Zareen is part of the ‘Impossible is Nothing' campaign, which aims 'to encourage women in sports to explore the endless possibilities that are achieved once barriers are broken down.'
Sharing her thoughts on it, Zareen said: "I'm honoured to be a part of such campaign as I've always been on the front foot to support women. And me being a women, I've struggled a lot in my boxing journey.
"I believe there are many women out there, who want to achieve their dreams. And I think they should start believing in themselves as nothing is impossible, you should have faith in yourself and you can achieve every dream of yours.
“I suggest each and every women out there that you should learn boxing for yourself," she concluded.