A 25-year-old boxer from the southern Indian state of Telangana has become the fifth Indian woman to win a gold medal in a world championship.
Nikhat Zareen on Thursday beat Thailand’s Jitpong Jutamas in the 52kg flyweight category at the Women’s World Boxing Championships held at Istanbul, Turkey.
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As the new world flyweight champion’s name was called out, Zareen punched her hand in the air, hugged her opponent and broke into tears.
“It’s finally here. The culmination of years of hard work and perseverance,” she tweeted on Friday. “India, this one’s for you. We did it, together.”
𝟐𝟎𝟐𝟐 𝐖𝐎𝐑𝐋𝐃 𝐂𝐇𝐀𝐌𝐏𝐈𝐎𝐍! 🥇
— Nikhat Zareen (@nikhat_zareen) May 20, 2022
The former junior world champion is the fifth Indian woman boxer after MC Mary Kom, Sarita Devi, Jenny RL and Lekha KC to win a gold at the world championships.
In 2019, when Zareen asked for a fair trial against India’s legendary boxer Mary Kom after being denied a chance to compete in the trials for the Tokyo Olympics, the latter had famously asked: “Who is Nikhat Zareen?”
Three years later, Zareen is a world champion – winning India’s first gold since Mary Kom won it in 2018.
After her win on Thursday, Zareen told a news conference that she would dedicate the medal to all the countrymen who supported her throughout her career.
Zareen also said it was her dream to trend on Twitter.
“Am I trending on Twitter? It was always my dream to be a trend on Twitter and to achieve something for my country at the world level is the biggest motivation,” she said.
A young woman from Nizamabad does more for Indian pride and glory than all the pseudo nationalists who pollute my timeline with their vicious diatribes against minorities. Salute you Nikhat Zareen on winning gold at the world boxing championship. Go girl, Go 🇮🇳! pic.twitter.com/jCTiZ52kz2
— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) May 19, 2022
The Muslim boxer, who hails from a middle-class family in Telangana’s Nizamabad town, said she had to overcome various odds to carve out a niche for herself in boxing.
“I had to work hard and overcome hurdles including talk that boxing is not for women. I had to tell people that nothing will happen to my face and my beauty will be intact,” she said last year during the launch of a campaign by sportswear giant Adidas.
“These very words challenged me and I wanted to go out there and prove that boxing doesn’t care whether you are a man or a woman. It’s the desire and aspiration that should matter. Boxing for me is more to do with the attitude and my sense of pride.”
Punching her way through Islamophobia, misogyny, and a shoulder injury, Nikhat Zareen from Nizamabad is now a WORLD CHAMPION! That too in her first attempt. 💪💪💪 pic.twitter.com/sCBd7GHP2b
— Karan Tripathi 🏳️🌈 (@TripathiGee) May 19, 2022
Zareen joined boxing at the age of 13 in 2010. Within six months, she won a gold in the state championship. Only a year later, she won the gold in the 2011 World Junior and Youth Championships for girls in Antalya, Turkey.
Zareen’s family is elated with her historic win on Thursday, again in Turkey.
“To win a gold in the world championships is something which will act as an inspiration to Muslim girls as well each girl in the country to aim to achieve bigger in life. A kid, whether he is a boy or girl, has to make their own way and Nikhat has paved her own way,” Zareen’s father Jameel Ahmed was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.
In a tweet, Prime Minister Narendra Modi showered praise on Zareen.
“Our boxers have made us proud! Congratulations to Nikhat Zareen for a fantastic gold medal win at the Women’s World Boxing Championship,” Modi wrote on Twitter.
“I also congratulate Manisha Moun and Parveen Hooda for their Bronze medals in the same competition,” added the Indian leader.
“One for the history books,” tweeted the Indian Boxing Federation. “Nikhat Zareen continues her golden streak … Well done, world champion.”