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Never thought I’d be competing against ‘my idol’ Mary Kom, says boxer Nikhat Zareen

Junior world boxing champion Nikhat Zareen claims the BFI has altered the rules to accommodate Mary Kom in 2020 Tokyo Olympics squad.

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New Delhi: Nikhat Zareen, the junior world boxing champion who claimed the Boxing Federation of India was going to allow M.C. Mary Kom in the Tokyo Olympics squad without a trial, told ThePrint, “I never thought I would one day be competing against my idol”.

The 23-year-old had Thursday appealed through Twitter to Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju to ensure fair trials for the 2020 Olympics.

Zareen, who started boxing at the age of 13, said Mary Kom had always been a huge inspiration for her.

“It was her story and the fact that she had three children and was still continuing to train and compete that inspired me,” Zareen told ThePrint.

Zareen, in her letter addressed to Rijiju, claimed she had learnt that the BFI was going to allow Mary Kom in the squad without a trial.

“…the BFI announced the gold and silver medallists from the World Cup will be exempt from Olympic trials. Today, I have been reliably informed that the rule is now being changed again to accommodate my senior, Mary Kom as the Indian candidate without a trial,” Zareen wrote.

Mary Kom had won a bronze medal in the Boxing World Championships recently held in Russia.

Zareen further claimed she had been denied the chance to try out for the Boxing World Championships too. The trial was cancelled, and instead Mary Kom was directly sent for the Championships, she said.

‘Was told Rio Olympics will be Mary Kom’s last’

During the trials of the 2016 World Championships, Zareen said she was asked to move from the 51kg weight category to the 54kg category as Mary Kom was competing in that category.

“The Selection Committee told my then coach Imani Chiranjeevi that since I was a new boxer and there were champions like Mary Kom and Pinky Jangra competing in the 51-weight category (what I compete in), that I should move up a category and try out for the 54-weight category. Mainly to get exposure because I was so young,” Zareen said.

She lost in the quarters of the 2016 World Championships.

Zareen said she subsequently did not compete in the Rio Olympics as she was told that it would be Mary Kom’s last Olympics.

“They (selection committee) said that the 2016 Rio Olympics would be Mary Kom’s last Olympics, therefore I also thought that I should step aside since she is so much more senior to me and I was just starting out,” says Zareen.

‘All I can do now is wait’

Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju’s replied to Zareen’s tweet saying that he will convey the message to the BFI and ask them to take a decision keeping in mind the “best interest” of the nation and the sport.

Following Rijiju’s tweet, Zareen said she is hoping for the best.

“Apart from Mr. Rijiu’s reply no one else has responded to me. Nobody from the federation has even reached out to me after my post. All I can do now is wait,” Zareen said.

Also read: How Vinesh Phogat did ‘exact opposite’ of what coaches said to ace Olympic qualifier round


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