Olympics-Nervous is necessary for India’s boxer Nikhat Zareen

FILE PHOTO: Commonwealth Games – Boxing – Women’s Over 48kg-50kg Light Fly – Round of 16 – The NEC Hall 4, Birmingham, Britain – July 31, 2022 India’s Zareen Nikhat reacts during her round of 16 fight with Mozambique’s Helena Ismael Bagao REUTERS/Phil Noble/File Photo

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Like most athletes making their Olympic debut in Paris, Nikhat Zareen is a bundle of nerves at the moment.

What sets her apart, however, is that the Indian boxer is not just at peace with the nervousness but even finds it necessary.

For the 25-year-old, it is a perfectly normal state of mind that she says has twice helped her become a world champion.

“Just because I am now an experienced boxer does not mean I shouldn’t be getting nervous,” Zareen told a virtual press conference arranged by the Sports of Authority of India.

“I’m both excited and nervous because people have a lot of expectations from me.”

There are also her own expectations.

Zareen has succeeded six-times world champion MC Mary Kom as the face of Indian boxing in recent years and wants to cement her stature with a medal in the women’s 50kg in Paris.

Nervousness has been a key ingredient in her success, which also includes a Commonwealth Games gold in 2022 and Asian Games bronze last year.

“It’s my thing. I get nervous before every competition,” said the feisty boxer from Telangana.

“If I don’t get nervous, my body doesn’t work the way I want it to perform in the ring. When I’m nervous, my body works well and I’m more focused.”

Her other realization is that she is usually at her best when she faces difficult opponents.

“I have noticed that I box better when I get a tough draw,” she said. “Easy draw is impossible in Olympics anyway, because only the top boxers will be competing there.

“It’s going to be a lot tougher than world championships.”

Zareen is reaping the benefit of qualifying early for her maiden Olympics.

“At the Asian Games, my first target was to qualify for the Olympics, and I was really happy to qualify so early,” she said.

“That reduced my stress. Qualifying late does not allow you to prepare the way you want to. Often there is not enough time to work on the areas you want to work on.

“After my qualification, my coaches prepared a comprehensive plan for me – which events to compete in, where to spar and with which boxers.

“Everything has gone according to that plan.”

Life has changed for the fun-loving boxer following her success in the ring but Zareen knows there is a big void in her list of accomplishments.

“I achieved my dream of becoming a world champion not once but twice, but it’s not end of the journey,” she said.

“My ultimate dream is to win an Olympic medal. Hopefully, I’ll fulfil that dream as well. Only then I can say I’ve achieved all I wanted.”



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