Telangana state boxer Nikhat Zareen’s sister has just given birth to a child. But even as Nikhat celebrates those moments, professionally, she wages a lone battle against the Boxing Federation of India (BFI). Nikhat has questioned the selection of ace boxer Mary Kom for the Olympic Qualifiers in the 51 kg category, Nikhat’s category, too, without any selection trails.
A day after she wrote to Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju seeking a trial bout against MC Mary Kom for selection of India’s squad for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Qualifiers, Kiren responded (via Twitter), saying, “The Ministry should not be involved in the selection of the players by the Sports Federations which are autonomous as per Olympic Charter (sic).”
The low blows
Kiren’s reply, though, hasn’t dampened the former junior world champion’s spirits. “I will personally take his appointment and see how it goes,” replies Nikhat, adding that she has also requested BFI to look into the matter. According to rules, players who have won the gold and silver medals in World Championships can be sent directly to the Olympic qualifying tourney by the federation. “But Mary Com won bronze in the World Championships. So now BFI is considering altering the rules to accommodate her, stating that even bronze medal winners can make it to Olympic qualifiers. “Why can’t the BFI actually conduct a trial and ask Mary to prove her mettle?” questions Nikhat, who says she was also dropped out from the World Championship selection in August in a similar manner.
On the ropes
Nikhat clarifies that she has no animosity towards anyone but laments the unfairness of it all. “What’s the point in my playing the game if I am not given a fair chance?” she asks, adding, “I’ve beaten world champions in my earlier competitions and have worked very hard to recuperate from surgeries, injuries and compete to come to the stage where I am now. I am passionate to represent India, but if I am not given the opportunity, all my four years of hard work will go in vain. So I am only asking for fair trials,” she bemoans.
While it takes a lot of courage for a player to take on any association, Nikhat believes her earlier record speak volumes to help her fight for herself. “I was part of six tournaments this year, and won medals in all of them, so I believe I deserve to be in the Olympic qualifying team,” she reiterates, adding, “Mary’s category is actually 48 kg, but as Olympics starts from 51 kg category, which is my category, she shifted her category and came into mine, and now she is given a wild-card entry into the Olympic qualifying team without any selection trials.”
Leading with her chin
Incidentally, despite the gloom shadowing her case, Nikhat did have Olympic gold-medallist shooter Abhinav Bindra in her corner when he came out in support of her. But people began claiming that it was only because both of them are associated with the same company, JSW. “No I am not with that group anymore,” she clarifies. Do her fellow players support her, we ask. “Yes, they do. But they don’t want to come out in the open because they fear the system,” she opines.
So where does she draw her strength from, we ask. “I am upset, but I am strong enough to fight for myself. I don’t want to give up easily. I want people to know that a girl from Telangana is fighting it out, and I believe they will support me,” says the spirited boxer.