“Following my World Boxing Championship Gold, I realise people’s expectations have gone up. I will work harder and put in more preparation to get a medal in the 2024 Paris Olympics.”
Fresh from her qualification for the forthcoming Commonwealth Games, World Boxing champion Nikhat Zareen looked confident as she met mediapersons at the Indian Women’s Press Corps on a hot June afternoon. Training for the Games will begin in a week’s time after she returns from a short break in her hometown, Hyderabad. Following her recent Gold medal win at the World Boxing Championship, Nikhat realises people’s expectations from her have doubled. “I will work harder and put in more preparation to get a medal in the 2024 Paris Olympics,” she says.
For now, her focus is on the forthcoming Commonwealth Games to be held in Birmingham from July 28- Aug 8, 2022. Asked about what Indian boxers lack at the international level, Nikhat said, “We have the talent, strength, speed, power, everything. But we sometimes falter at the big events because we cannot handle the mental pressure. We need training to deal with the pressure.” Lauding the support from Sports Authority of India (SAI), she said SAI centres remained open during the COVID lockdown to enable athletes to train without interruption. She called the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) an amazing initiative that had enabled athletes to train at the top level without any worry. Thanking her corporate sponsors, Nikhat urged more corporates to come forward with support for athletes. She also called for telecast of boxing bouts to inspire youngsters to take up the sport.
Talking about her struggle in the 50-kg category, which was dominated by six-time World Boxing champion MC Mary Kom, Nikhat said the wait for opportunities only increased her hunger. “If I had not struggled, I might not have worked so hard. And if I hadn’t worked hard, I wouldn’t be a world champion today,” she said. Talking about her boxing idols, Nikhat said besides admiring Mohammad Ali and Mike Tyson, she was impressed with British Olympic medallist Nicola Adams. “I wanted to have one fight with her before she retired. I liked her stance, her clean boxing style. She would show her game and I liked that,” she said.
Offering a glimpse into her childhood, Nikhat said she was a stubborn girl who loved to climb trees. She says she is blessed to have a father who supported her all the way. Growing up among four sisters, she says she never got the feeling that boys were different or girls were any less. Describing music, hanging out with friends, food and shayari as her big loves, Nikhat says she would love to meet Bollywood heartthrob Salman Khan. Her dream is to open a boxing academy one day for the hundreds of girls dreaming of boxing glory.