'Next Target is to Win Olympic Gold for India', Says World Champion Boxer Nikhat Zareen
12:05 GMT 25.05.2022 (Updated: 11:45 GMT 10.12.2022)
© Photo : Twitter/@Media_SAINikhat Zareen
© Photo : Twitter/@Media_SAI
Nikhat Zareen became the fifth Indian boxer after Mary Kom, Sarita Devi, Jenny RL, and Lekha KC to win a gold medal at the World Boxing Championships. This is her second international gold medal, with the first coming in 2011 at the youth championship held in Turkey.
Nikhat Zareen, who comes from Nizamabad city in India's Telangana state, is no longer an unknown quantity in boxing circles after her victory in the World Boxing Championships in Istanbul made her a star overnight.
When she took up boxing as a sport, people told her father to stop her as boxing was considered a man’s sport. But Zareen’s father didn't listen to them and instead told his daughter to redouble her efforts.
In a candid conversation with Sputnik, Zareen opens up about her struggles in a conservative society, her boxing career and future plans.
Sputnik: How do you feel after joining the list of greats such as Mary Kom and Sarita Devi?
Nikhat Zareen: It is a really great honour that my name will now be in the same sphere as legendary boxers such as Mary Kom and Sarita Devi. I really feel blessed that I was able to make my mark and win a Gold medal for the country.
Things have changed after I became the world champion. People have started appreciating me and my hard work. The whole country is celebrating my victory. It feels great that 130 million people are standing by you. This thought itself motivates me to do well in future.
Sputnik: You had a bit of an ugly spat with Mary Kom during the trials for the Tokyo Olympics qualifiers. How do you view her now?
Nikhat Zareen: Mary Kom has inspired a lot of girls. She is an experienced boxer with many records under her belt. I had always regarded her as my idol even before the 2019 Tokyo Olympics trial and I still see her as my idol.
Sputnik: What were your thoughts before entering the ring in the finals? How did you cope with the pressure?
Nikhat Zareen: I was nervous as well as excited about the final bout. I had defeated the Thai boxer Jutamas Jitpong in the 2019 Thailand Open so that gave me a bit of confidence. But I was nervous because she was the quarter-finalist in the Tokyo Olympics. However, she lost in the quarter finals.
Before entering the ring I was thinking that Jutamas might have improved her game after the loss in the Tokyo Olympics but once I entered the ring the only thing in my mind was -- I will give my 100 percent in the ring and win the bout.
As far as pressure is concerned, there is pressure in each and every game be it at the district level or national level or international level.
To cope up with that pressure, I just close my eyes before entering the ring and think that I will be winning the bout. This has worked for me for most of the time.
Apart from this, head coach Bhaskar Bhatt gave me a pep talk before the bout. He said that I have everything in me and I am the best. He told me that if I win the Gold medal for the country, it will be a proud moment for everyone.
Sputnik: What inspired you the most in training as a boxer?
Nikhat Zareen: My father, who was an athlete himself, has always been supportive. Before boxing, I used to be in athletics. I used to accompany my father to the Collector’s ground where many competitive sports took place. There I saw girls participating in many sports but there was not a single girl in boxing.
I asked my father if boxing was only meant for boys. He told me that it is not like that. Even girls can box but people think that they are not strong enough to take up boxing as a sport.
These words from my father inspired me to take up boxing as a sport. I was the only girl practising in that stadium among the boys. This was in 2009 and starting from there I won the national championship in a year, got selected for the national camp and in 2011 I won my first international medal at the youth championship in Turkey.
However, there was a setback because of a shoulder injury. But that injury made me learn a lot of things. I stayed positive during that time and worked hard on my rehabilitation. Then I made my comeback in 2018 and took some time to recover before I won the gold at the Strandja Memorial in 2019 and now a Gold medal in Turkey again.
I have never looked back and have always thought of progressing. My dream is to win an Olympic gold medal for my country and I am working hard towards fulfilling my goal.
Sputnik: You wished to be a police officer in life, what prompted you to change your plan for making a career in sports?
Nikhat Zareen: Yes I dreamed of becoming a police officer during my childhood but for that you need to be good in studies too. (Nikhat laughs). I was not good in studies and was a backbencher. But I think my father knew that I could become a police officer even after taking sports so he motivated me to build a career in boxing.
Hopefully, someday my dream of becoming a police officer might also come true.
Sputnik: What is next for Nikhat Zareen?
Nikhat Zareen: Now I will be starting my training and preparations for Commonwealth Games trials. I will give my all in the trials, get selected in the team and win a Gold medal for my country in the Commonwealth Games too.
Sputnik: What message would you like to give young girls looking to make a career in sports?
Nikhat Zareen: All the girls out there should keep only one thing in mind: if you have set up a dream for yourself then work hard to achieve it, keep believing in yourself and one day your hard work will pay off.