Nikhat defeated Thailand's Jitpong Jutamas to clinch the medal in the 52kg category. (By Arrangement)
Even as India basks in the glory of its badminton team winning the prestigious Thomas Cup, another win has added to its cup of joy — Nikhat Zareen won gold at the 12th edition of the IBA World Woman Boxing Championship. When news of the historic win broke on Thursday night, Nikhat’s family and Telangana State sports officials were ecstatic.
Nikhat defeated Thailand’s Jitpong Jutamas to clinch the medal in the 52kg category. "We were a bit nervous before the match started, although we were confident that she would win the Gold. As the match progressed, we saw how she gained confidence, and we knew she would win comprehensively," says Nikhat’s father Jammel Ahmed. He stresses that Nikhat’s win is a proud moment not only for him but also for all the girls out there who are willing to defy all odds and break the glass ceiling. He attributes his daughter’s victory to the hard work she has put in, and the difficulties she had to overcome. "She broke down after winning; that just shows how much effort went into her performance," he says. "I believe this is just the beginning. Our focus is on the coming Olympics," says the proud father of the 25-year-old, who is also a former youth world champion.
But we told her she would be able to come back and prove herself," he shares.
Nikhat has now become the fifth Indian women boxer to win a gold medal at a world championship, after the record six-time champion Mary Kom (2002, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2018), Sarita Devi (2006), Jenny RL (2006) and Lekha KC (2006).
"Seeing my daughter’s name on that august list is a great feeling. I can only say that her perseverance has paid off," says Jammel, who had spoken to Nikhat on the eve of the final match and advised her not to feel pressured, but approach the final just like she had handled the semi-final match. "I reminded her that many hadn’t made it as far as she had, and told her she should be proud of what she had done. I also cautioned her not to be overconfident. She said ‘OK, OK Papa," he reveals.
Like every sportsperson, Nikhat had tough times and challenges during her journey. She couldn’t get opportunities to play during crucial times. "That’s why this medal means a lot!" he says, while thanking the Boxing Federation and Telangana State sports officials for their constant support.
How important is this win in her career, we ask him?
"This is a significant step towards preparing for the Olympic qualifiers. It gives us a great deal of confidence," he replies.
"She has upset even the best in the past, and her ability to stay strong psychologically is great. She likes challenges and her courage needs to be appreciated," the coach says.
Nikhat Zareen with her coach Chiranjeevi. (By Arrangement)
Nikhat has been training extensively under Chiranjeevi. The training methods he adopted were tailored for her strength and endurance.
"After the initial warm ups she went through physical and technical training. Padding, force punches, hand speed moment, hand-eye coordination, agility and shadow practising were some of the programmes she was trained in," says Chiranjeevi. She was also trained in maintaining mental and physical fitness over the years.
Dealing with injury was tough for Nikhat, but the pugilist followed Chiranjeevi’s instructions and guidance. As a result, she recuperated much quicker than anticipated.
‘She’s a fighter and never gives up’
Nikhat’s historic win reinforces the fact that boxing is an affordable sport, and anyone can pick it up. Timely motivation is very important for any sportsman and we kept encouraging her not to lose hope or her spirit. When we were selecting the team, we knew that Nikhat would be a potential medal winner. Her father and I were constantly speaking over the phone during the course of the championship. What we were particularly impressed by was her attitude and approach to the game. She’s a fighter and never gives up. I think that quality brought her this far. We all know what Nikhat went through but she showed great character in becoming what she is now. That’s what we tell all sportspersons — ups and downs are there in everyone’s life but they should move on and prove their mettle. This win will boost her confidence in prepping for the coming Olympics.
- Boxer Venkatesan Devarajan,
former World Cup bronze medal winner and current National selector