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Boxer Nikhat Zareen continues to break social dogma, defy odds with her grit and determination

New Delhi, Aug 9: Indian boxer Nikhat Zareen is in the form of her life as the Telangana girl achieved her second international gold medal in a span of three months. After becoming only the fifth ever female pugilist from the country to bag a gold in World Championships, the 25-year-old carried her sublime form in the Commonwealth Games 2022 to clinch a historic gold.

Nikhat - who had to switch to the 50kg from 52 kg category - showcased her talent and skills throughout the multi-sporting event in Birmingham as she won all of her bouts by unanimous decision. The world champion boxer - came into the competition as a favourite - owing to her recent form.

Nikhat had stormed into the final of women's 50kg category after outclassing England's Stubley Alfia Savannah 5-0. Since then she was tipped to be the frontrunner in the gold medal race. But her biggest hurdle between her and her second successive CWG gold medal was Northern Ireland's Carly McNaul - whom she met in the final. In the final too, Nikhat outpunched her opponent and won all three rounds unanimously.

With her stellar show in two consecutive international events, Nikhat has proven her mettle to the world and her strong willpower. However, the path to glory hasn't been an easy one for the young pugilist.

From battling social stigma and taboo to fighting with the federation (BFI) to getting a chance to prove herself, Nikhat has faced it all. But she has deftly outpunched all the odds with her grit and determination.

Coming from a middle-class Muslim family Nikhat was schooled by many in her community that Muslim girls should remain in purdah and not wear short dresses. But she found the support of her father who never stopped her from pursuing her dream.

In one of the interviews, Nikhat said, "I was told a Muslim woman should be in purdah and asked how I could wear short clothes. When I won medals, the same people would come back asking for photos and selfies."

While her mother wasn't averse to Nikhat's boxing but she was always worried about the facial bruises and injuries she used to sustain in her bouts. She feared her daughter's face might get distorted and that no one will marry her. But the progress she has made in the international circuit has eased her mother's worries for her daughter has become a household name in the country.

With her success in 2022, Nikhat now aims to continue the momentum going and she is now setting her sights on the Paris Olympics.

The expectations from Nikhat to return with a gold medal from Birmingham were high and she has delivered. "There were a lot of expectations on me after winning the World Championships, no doubt about that. "But it's good to be in a pressure situation. I don't want to take it easy in the ring. I should feel that I'm under pressure and people expect a medal from me. I've more expectations from me than the people. Pressure only brings out the best out of me," she said after winning CWG gold.

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Story first published: Tuesday, August 9, 2022, 0:36 [IST]
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