‘The Olympic gold is my ultimate dream’ — Nikhat Zareen

Two gold medals in consecutive World Championships have propelled Nikhat to the limelight like never before.

Published : Apr 12, 2023 12:07 IST , NEW DELHI - 4 MINS READ

Double World gold medallist Nikhat Zareen shares her thoughts at the National Sports Conclave in New Delhi last month.
Double World gold medallist Nikhat Zareen shares her thoughts at the National Sports Conclave in New Delhi last month. | Photo Credit: MOORTHY RV

Double World gold medallist Nikhat Zareen shares her thoughts at the National Sports Conclave in New Delhi last month. | Photo Credit: MOORTHY RV

Nikhat Zareen raised her profile manifold by claiming her second consecutive gold medal in the Women’s World Boxing Championships in New Delhi. She thus became only the second Indian after the legendary M. C. Mary Kom to win more than one World title.

After tasting success in a new weight category in front of the home crowd, Nikhat was the toast of the town. Despite being flooded with innumerable requests for interviews and invitations, the star boxer found time to attend the Sportstar National Sports Conclave in Delhi.

The 26-year-old sporting icon spoke of her recent triumph and revealed her plans for the Asian Games and 2024 Paris Olympics.

Nikhat, congratulations on winning your second World title. How is the feeling?

The feeling is great. I won it in a new weight category (50kg), which is an Olympic category. I am really happy with the way I performed. This competition was a good experience for me. I was unseeded, still I managed to win most of the bouts with unanimous decisions. Only my quarterfinal was won by 5-2. Overall, the way I performed in the ring was good. Yeah, I made a few mistakes but, as I said, it was a new experience for me to box in this new weight category. I will learn from these mistakes and will work on them.

Was the final (against two-time Asian champion Thi Tam Ngyuen of Vietnam) the toughest bout ever for you?

It was tough, but I would not say it was the toughest because I won the bout with a unanimous decision. I will remember this bout forever because this was the first time in my whole boxing career that I got an eight count in my final bout. I don’t know why the referee gave me an eight count. But it’s fine. In the end I won the bout and got the gold medal for my country. So, I am happy.

What was special during the preparation for the World Championship?

There was nothing special. For this Championship, I had to cut down two more kilos to box in this category. It was a new experience, (and I fought with) new opponents. Still, I had just one goal: winning the gold medal and winning the title again. I worked under experienced coaches like Irish high-performance director Bernard (Dunne), (foreign coach) Dmitry (Dmitruk) and (chief coach) Bhaskar Bhatt sir. They worked on my game to make me a better boxer in this category. There was nothing new to work on, but it was a new experience for me. When the camp starts again, I will sit with my coaches and discuss (my game), go through my World Championship bouts, see what mistakes I made and start working on those.

We know you as a joyful and fun-loving girl. Do such intense competitions take a toll on that side of your personality?

No, not at all. Naturally I am a fun-loving girl, who enjoys listening to music, going around with friends and shopping. But when it comes to Nikhat who is focused on competitions, I like to be calm and composed when I enter the ring. I don’t waste my energy going shopping or doing things that will tire me. I try to rest, and I don’t waste my energy on other activities because I need to lose weight. I need to sacrifice a lot of foods which I love to eat. At the end, when I win that medal, that happiness matters more in comparison to the food that I am sacrificing. They say, ‘Kuchh paane ke liye kuchh khona padta hai’ (to get something you need to sacrifice something first). For winning that gold medal, ‘mujhe khana khona pada hai’ (I sacrificed my food). But when you wear that gold medal and hold it in your hands, it feels all the sacrifices are worth it.

You dedicated your second World title to the home spectators, who supported you well. Which of your two World Championship gold medals is sweeter?

Both are special to me because both are in different weight categories. Both have different struggles. The first one was at 52kg, where I did not have to struggle too much. But in the 50kg, I had to struggle. But the one which I won in Istanbul was very special as that was my first World Championship title. It is very close to my heart. After that title, people started recognising me. I got all the fame and success after that.

How much do you want to be an Olympic champion?

The Olympic gold medal is my ultimate dream, but I don’t want to jump straight to the Olympics and not prepare for the upcoming competitions. I want to focus on each competition and (go) step-by-step. Before the World Championship, my focus was to win the gold. Now that I have won this gold medal, my focus will be on winning an Asian Games medal and qualifying for the Paris Olympics.

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