Nikhat aims for Olympic gold

Nikhat Nazreen...dreaming big.-

The 15-year-old girl from Andhra Pradesh has made history by winning the gold medal in the Junior World Women's Championship in Antalya (Turkey) recently. By V. V. Subrahmanyam.

Nikhat Zareen, according to her family members and friends, has always showed an intense desire to break away from established norms. Nikhat herself recalled the first time she made a casual visit to the SAAP (Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh) Academy's boxing ‘training centre' — which is an open place and not the regular indoor hall — two years ago and decided to take up the sport. She wanted to prove that boxing was not meant only for boys and men.

“It was a spontaneous decision to take up boxing,” said Nikhat, who hails from Nizamabad in Andhra Pradesh.

Two years later, at the age of 15, Nikhat became a champion, winning the flyweight gold medal in the Junior World Women's Championship in Antalya (Turkey) recently.

The SAAP boxing coach, Omkar Yadav, was the first to spot Nikhat's talent when he took her to the PYKKA Nationals in Punjab, where she caught the attention of one and all by winning a gold medal. “I was surprised by the ease with which she got the better of her opponents. Then I realised that if given the right kind of support, she will be a force to reckon with,” said the boxing coach who trains in Hyderabad.

Fortunately for Nikhat, she had good support from her uncle Shamsamuddin (her father's brother), who is also the secretary of the Nizamabad District Boxing Association. He went all out to help her talent to blossom. And much to his delight, Nikhat made an impact by winning the Junior National gold.

That was just the beginning.

“The most impressive facets of this young girl are her remarkable hand-eye coordination and her poise even under pressure which, I believe, are the prerequisites for a champion in the ring,” said Shamsamuddin.

With Nikhat's father away, working in Dubai, Shamsamuddin has been the guiding force for the newly-crowned world junior women's champion.

Talking of her achievement, Nikhat is quite modest. “Honestly, I was never thinking of winning the gold. I was only keen on giving off my best as it happened to be my maiden international event. But by the grace of the Almighty, everything clicked and I am delighted with the way things had gone for me in Turkey,” she said. Interestingly, Nikhat had written her ninth-standard exams at the Nirmala Hrudaya High School (Nizamabad) just before going for the World meet.

HEADY SHOW... Nikhat Zareen (third from left) with other Indian boxers who won medals in the Junior World Championship in Antalya, Turkey. From left: Lalfakzuali (silver medal), Lalenkawli (gold), Basumatary Pwilao (bronze), Poonam (bronze), Shamjetsabam Sarjubala (gold) and Basumatary Minu (gold).-SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

Reportedly, the Mittal Group, which had come forward to sponsor Nikhat, had to put its plans on hold as the boxer was found to be too young for the deal. “But now, with this World title, things should change,” said Omkar Yadav.

“I dedicate this World Championship gold to my parents and my coach,” said Nikhat.

As for her goals, Nikhat said: “Believe it or not, now I am dreaming of an Olympic medal. And I have set 2016 Olympics to realise this dream. I am aware that it is not easy, but I look at the achievements of our own world champion Mary Kom to get motivated.”

Looking back at the Junior World Championship in Turkey, Nikhat said her biggest satisfaction was when she got the better of the local girl, Ulku Demir (27-16), and the vociferous crowd in the final to clinch the gold.

Nikhat reminded that she was not going to rest on this feat. “This actually should motivate me to dream big, work hard and keep improving to win many more laurels in the days to come,” she remarked.

Nikhat dismissed talks of training abroad. “I won the World juniors gold with ‘home technique' taught by my uncle. Definitely, we will study the video tapes of leading boxers and try to improve as much as we can and blend their styles with our own,” she said.