Nikhat Zareen exclaimed as she unfurled the ‘ticket to Paris 2024 Olympics!’ placard handed to her as she made her way from the ring after her Asian Games quarterfinal bout.
It was hard to mask her thrill even though the ticket was not the real one. She looked at it, kissed it, and asked if she could keep it.
Nikhat’s dream of winning an Olympic medal has now found a pathway.
The 27-year-old became the first Indian boxer to confirm a Paris 2024 Olympic quota by punching past Jordan’s Hanan Nassar into the semis of the women’s 50kg category at the Hangzhou Gymnasium on Friday. She also assured herself a medal on her Asian Games debut.
She had three rounds of 180 seconds to get the job done but needed just 127 seconds to dismantle the Jordanian. Hanan, described as a ballerina disguised as a boxer, failed to find her dancing shoes as Nikhat cornered her with an aggressive approach.
As Hanan looked to attack at the 60-second mark, Nikhat faked with her left arm before unleashing a powerful right, which landed square on the Jordanian’s jaw. A dazed Hanan took time to rediscover her bearing as the referee called for the first standing eight count.
Upon resumption, Nikhat didn’t relent. She followed up with more hard-hitting lefts and rights until the referee called for an eight count before the referee stopped the contest and awarded the victory to the Indian.
All were left stunned, including the Jordanian bench and the locals, as the much-anticipated quarterfinal bout ended much before the bell rang to signal the close of the first of the three rounds.
“No,” said Nikhat when asked if she was surprised by the short duration of the fight. “I saw her previous bouts. My strategy was to go direct, with leading right hands. That’s what I did, and I got RSC and won in the first round. And hopefully, I will keep performing like this in the next couple of matches.”
With one of the two objectives ticked off, Nikhat can now focus on adding another gold medal to her burgeoning trophy cabinet.
“I am happy to win and confirm the medal and Olympic quota. I am happy with my performance in this championship. I have two more [possible] bouts and will give my best. I will be fully focused on winning that gold medal. I want to make my country proud,” she said.
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