Podcast: Countdown to Paris 2024 - What are India’s star boxers up to?

As Indian athletes begin the final phase of preparation ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics, Nihit Sachdeva, YB Sarangi and Jonathan Selvaraj take stock of India’s boxing ecosystem and what the country’s top prospects are up to.

Published : Feb 15, 2024 23:18 IST - 2 MINS READ

Listen to the latest episode of the Sportstar Podcast on your favourite podcast streaming platform.
Listen to the latest episode of the Sportstar Podcast on your favourite podcast streaming platform.

Listen to the latest episode of the Sportstar Podcast on your favourite podcast streaming platform.

Nihit Sachdeva - Hello and welcome to a new episode of the Sportstar Podcast. This is your host Nihit Sachdeva and joining me on the pod today are my colleagues Jonathan Selvaraj and Y.B. Sarangi and today, we are going to discuss Indian boxing. Boxing is one of the major sports for India when it comes to the Olympics. We have won three medals so far - Vijendar Singh (Bronze, 2008), Mary Kom (Bronze, 2012) and Lovlina Borgohain (Bronze, 2021).

India got four quotas for Paris Olympics last year - Nikhat Zareen (50 kg), Preeti Pawar (54 kg) and Parveen Hooda (57kg) won bronze while Lovlina (75kg) won silver at Asian Games in Hangzhou to book their slots for this year’s Summer Games. However, there are nine more quotas (two for women and seven for men) up for grabs.

Indians started this year at Strandja Memorial. YBS, what is the significance of Strandja as a tournament in an Olympic year for the Indians?

YB Sarangi - Strandja has been in existence for 75 years. So, there are a lot of quality boxers. They love to be a part of this tournament and as Indians, we also look up to this event every year. Nikhat Zareen is a two-time gold medallist at this event. In 2022, she defeated Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Buse Naz Çakıroğlu of Turkey on her way to gold and picked up pace from there. She went on to become the world champion in the 52kg category and the rest is history.

In an Olympic year, it is a good way to assess yourself by competing in such events. It gives the opportunity to see who are potential candidates for the Olympics

Jonathan Selvaraj - The main people we need to look at are people who are either going to the Olympics or the Olympic qualifiers. Nikhat has won Strandja before. This time, she lost a close final against a promising Uzbek girl who also beat the reigning Asian Games gold medallist. So, Nikhat is not far away from her best. The interesting thing is that the Uzbek girl has not qualified for the Olympics yet. There’s no guarantee that Nikhat can face this opponent in Paris. On the other hand, Nikhat beat a French boxer who she beat earlier in the competition and that boxer is going to be there at the Olympics. So, there is some amount of confidence that she’ll take from that because a local boxer will always be a favourite at the Olympics. That’s a bigger win.

For more, listen to the full episode.

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