Hyderabad: Nikhat Zareen is again in the news. The sportswoman may have lost a deciding bout against boxing star Mary Kom, but has won hearts across India.
Zareen has always been a rebel, and perhaps that comes across from her choice of sport to build a career.
The amateur female boxer hails from Nizamabad in Telangana. She won a silver medal at the second India Open International Boxing Tournament in Guwahati. Another silver medal from Thailand Open International Boxing Tournament-2019, Bangkok, landed in her kitty too.
The spotlight moved to Zareen and Mary Kom on Saturday after the top pugilist refused to shake hands with her junior, saying she doesn't "like people with such nature". Mary Kom was under the impression that Zareen wasn't respecting her. As Zareen came forward to hug Mary Kom after her loss in the Olympic qualifiers, the latter walked away.
Zareen never felt embarrassed to take on Mary Kom, who has been the world champion for six times and an Olympic medal winner as well.
What gave her the much-needed courage to compete against Mary Kom?
The rebellious young woman always wanted to create her own way whether it's in personal life or boxing. The 23-year-old faced several challenges before making it to the boxing ring.
"My father always encourages me. But, my mother always insists on boxing practice. Particularly, my mom was more frightened when I used to practise with boys," says Zareen.
Zareen was a sprinter and used to participate in 100 and 200 meters local competitions. One incident changed Zareen's sports career when she attended a district sports event in Nizamabad at the age of 10. She was surprised to see a lone female contestant for boxing. Predictably, the organisers declared her the winner without a fight.
Zareen asked her father, Mohammad Zameel, about why there was only one female boxer. Her father's response was that women were physically weak by nature and lacked courage. "So they can't fight in the boxing ring."
The rebel later proved her father wrong. Here goes another example that highlighted Zareen's nature to question and fight against the system.
Generally, a sportsperson, whether a star or an Olympic medal winner, has to go through trials before selections for Olympics. Indian Boxing Association had decided to nominate Mary Kom directly to the Tokyo Olympics. But Zareen insisted on trials for every boxer including Mary Kom.
Further, Zareen wrote a letter to the Union Ministry for Sports.
Despite her loss against Mary Kom in the final bout, Zareen won many hearts. Indian Boxing Association has termed Zareen a successor to Mary Kom. Star sportspersons such as Karanam Malleshwari and shooter Abhinav Bindra also supported Zareen on her cause.