Hangzhou, September 29
Without breaking a sweat, Nikhat Zareen secured a Paris Olympics quota place by reaching the semifinals of the Asian Games here today, a just reward for the indomitable boxer who missed out on the Tokyo Games.
The 27-year-old has come a long way since pleading for a “fair trial” for a shot at competing in the Olympics qualifiers four years ago.
The Telangana boxer is now a two-time world champion, Commonwealth Games champion and an Asian Games medal winner.
Earning an Olympics quota was Nikhat’s top priority at Hangzhou. Today, she achieved that by cantering to the 50kg category semifinals with a first-round RSC (referee stops contest) win over Jordan’s Nassar Hanan.
“I’m really happy to have won this quarterfinal and achieve the Olympics quota. I was looking to get the quota. Now I have got it, finally, and I am looking forward to winning that gold medal,” she said after the win.
The boxer has not lost a bout in the last two years and she needed less than three minutes to notch the win against Hanan.
Nikhat had to wait patiently to make the 50kg category her own as it was dominated by the legendary MC Mary Kom. But, as soon as she got a chance, Nikhat wasted no time in establishing herself as a fitting heir to the six-time champion. She is the only Indian boxer after Mary Kom to win two world titles and win one outside India.
Nikhat set the tone of the quarterfinals bout early on with a sharp jab. She continued to dominate with a flurry of accurate combination punches, pummelling her opponent. Such was her domination that the referee was forced to give the Jordanian pugilist three standing counts.
“I watched the previous fight, and my strategy was to go out there with the right leading hand, and that’s what I did. I got the RSC (referee stops contest) in the first round,” Nikhat said.
On her hopes for the rest of the competition, she said: “Hopefully, I keep performing like this in my next matches. My focus is on performing in these Games. Hopefully, I win gold and make my country proud.”
Nikhat will take on two-time Worlds bronze medallist Chuthamat Raksat of Thailand in the semifinals on Sunday.
Worlds bronze medallist Parveen started her campaign with a win as she managed to outplay local favourite Zichun Xu 5-0 to move into the quarters. Lakshya Chahar, on the other hand, made a first-round exit after he went down 1-4 to Kyrgyzstan’s Omurbek Bekzhigit Uulu in an 80kg Round-of-16 bout.
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