Nikhat flavour of gold: Telangana boxer prevails over near-misses, frustrations

If she had a vast number of doubters about her skillsets inside the ring, she had to face an almighty battle to even get into the ring.

Published: 20th May 2022 01:04 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th May 2022 01:04 AM   |  A+A-

Indian boxer Nikhat Zareen after winning Women's World Championship match against Thailand's Jitpong Jutamas in the flyweight (52kg) final. (Photo | PTI)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Even after winning gold at the world championships in Istanbul, Nikhat Zareen still thinks about the difficult times she had to endure. For all those near-misses and frustrations, it was not easy. "It was difficult but I remained focussed," she said after the victory over Thailand's Jitpong Jutamas.  

"After making a comeback in 2018, I was not at the peak level. I missed out on the World  Championships. But I didn't give up. After 2019, I have taken every competition as an opportunity and I have tasted success. I have always had faith in myself," she recalled.

If she had a vast number of doubters about her skillsets inside the ring, she had to face an almighty battle to even get into the ring.

"Earlier, we wouldn't send girls outside. There were tough conditions. But I had a thought process. We wanted Nikhat to take up a sport," her father, Mohammed Jameel  Ahmed, recalled to this paper.

"Nikhat was rough and tough. She would prefer to remain outdoor and spend time with her friends in the locality. So we felt we should take her to a ground and figure out if she wants to get into sports."

Sports was obviously in her DNA. In her post-victory press conference, she revealed that she had tried her hand in athletics before embracing boxing. That obviously proved to be the correct decision when one saw her welling up with joy following her unanimous 5-0 win on Thursday.

She can now call herself a world champion, a rare honour, which has only been accomplished by four Indians before her. This momentous occasion was something that she had dreamt of ever since she took up the sport for the first time. "She had high ambitions, she would tell me she wants to become a world and an Olympic champion. She was hardworking in nature as well," says former India coach I Venkateswara Rao, who guided Nikhat during her early days.

Now, she is living the dream. She had been a standout before entering the 52-kg final of the IBA World Championships in Istanbul (Turkey), asserting her dominance to post all her wins by unanimous verdicts.

Nikhat exhibited the right amount of aggression and threw some accurate punches to catch her opponent on multiple occasions. The Thai boxer, as expected, was unwilling to submit easily and made the contest interesting by just edging the Indian in the second round. But Nikhat was relentless in the third and ensured that by taking matters into her hand to secure the contest. She is now keen to repeat the feat in the 2024 Paris Olympics. 

"I would like to thank BFI and all the coaches. With their support, I'm able to become a world champion. I'll keep working hard and give my best to win at Paris Olympics," Nikhat said.

Rao is not surprised by the levels that Nikhat has reached over the years. 

It was under him that Nikhat had become a world champion at the junior level in 2011 and in 2014, Nikhat had medalled at the Youth World Championships. 

"She has been dominating her bouts and there are clear improvements. She has improved her combination counter-attacks and her reaction speed is good," he noted.

Medals at the world level in the junior and youth level do not guarantee success in the future but that was a good indicator of Nikhat's talent. But despite her undeniable talent, she could never really cement her place in the senior national squad. MC Mary Kom's massive presence was also a factor. While Mary continued to medal at international events, Nikhat and other aspirants (in an around 51kg weight category) were forced to wait for their chance. 

That was when she would lean on her family members, especially her mother. Despite finding herself in a hopeless situation on multiple occasions, she did not give up and kept her focus intact. She has also had injury issues.

Nikhat's faith in her ability started paying off in the last six months or so. In the women's senior nationals, she won 'best boxer' title after clinching the top prize. Buoyed after that success, Nikhat, who turns 26 next month, went on to claim gold at the Strandja Memorial Tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria earlier this year. What was noteworthy then was that Tokyo Olympics silver medallist, Busenaz Cakiroglu, was one of her scalps. That had elevated her confidence levels to the next level.

"She also has attained good experience now. In boxing, at the senior level, you need a good amount of experience. Mary also tasted success over the years because of her experience. She knows how to adapt according to the situation. Nikhat also has all the qualities required to be successful at the elite level. She has a bright future," Rao added.

In the immediate afterglow of the win, the 25-year-old let it slip that it was her dream to trend on Twitter. On Thursday night, this diminutive woman did that. And much more. 


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