HYDERABAD: There was a hint of disappointment in her voice, even though she had just won what she never had in her career. Former junior world boxing champion, Nikhat Zareen clinched her first ever senior nationals silver in the flyweight (51 kg) category on Sunday. She was defeated by the more experienced Pinky Jangra of Haryana in the summit clash. The despondency stemmed from the fact that the Nizamabad native ‘knew’ the opponent, and was sure of a gold this time.
“I have sparred with her many times at the national camp. That had given me a fair idea of what was to come. And I was well-prepared too. It was a really close bout. I thought that I had won it. But the umpires ruled in her favour. These things happen in this sport,” Nikhat told this newspaper soon after her first senior nationals’ final appearance.
The fact that the tournament was held at a place — Inspire Institute of Sport (IIS) — which she refers to as ‘home’ had also propped up her hopes. As part of JSW’s Sports Excellence Program, she spends a lot of time at IIS (Bellary, Karnataka), a high-performance training facility run by the JSW Group. In fact, it was this place where she did her rehab after a right-shoulder injury kept her out of the ring for almost a year (Feb 2016 to Jan 2017).
“I got pretty excited when I got to know that the nationals will be held at home. My story at the nationals ever since capturing the junior world title had been the same. I used to fall short in the semis after a really close fight. This time I was quite confident of going all the way. I had been training for nationals since August last year. First, the focus was on building strength. Then I sparred with boys. It helped me a lot because boys are stronger and faster. Those sessions with them proved to be really helpful,” the 22-year-old said when asked how she had prepared for the tournament.
The road ahead towards Olympics qualification is pretty tough, as she will face competition from a number of strong pugilists, including the 28-year-old Jangra and MC Mary Kom, who will jump from 48 to 51-kg for another shot at an Olympic medal. Queried about her objective this year, Nikhat said:” There are no fitness concerns right now. The shoulder has healed pretty well. I landed some really hard-hitting punches in this tournament. My focus is on performing well at the India Open, which will be my next tournament. Then there are other important events as well.”
National champs: 48 kg: Manju Rani; 51 kg: Pinki Jangra; 54 kg: M Meenakumari Devi; 57 kg: Sonia Lather; 60 kg: Neeraj; 64 kg: Simranjit Kaur; 69 kg: Lovlina Borgohain; 75kg: Neetu; 81 kg: Pooja Rani; +81 kg: Seema Poonia.