Nikhat Zareen, who on Thursday became the fifth Indian woman boxer to win a gold medal in the world championship, attained glory in a 13-year-long journey with sheer hard work and determination.

Hailing from a middle-class and conservative Muslim family and coming from Nizamabad town, which lacked sports infrastructure, the girl overcame all odds with a steely resolve to carve out a niche for herself.

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On Thursday, Nikhat’s parents and her three sisters were elated and proud as she defeated Thailand’s Jitpong Jutamas in the 52kg category to join the selected club of Indian women boxers who have achieved glory in the World Championship.

“To win a gold in the world championships is something which will act as an inspiration to Muslim girls as well each girl in the country to aim to achieve bigger in life. A kid, where he is boy or girl, has to make their own way and Nikhat has paved her own way,” an emotional Jameel Ahmed was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.

The 26-year-old achieved the feat in Turkey, 11 years after she bagged gold in the Junior World Cup women’s boxing championship in the flyweight category in the same country. She was the first boxer from then undivided Andhra Pradesh to achieve the feat.

“When Mohammed Ali’s daughter can do it, why can’t I?” Nikhat had asked after taking to the boxing ring in 2009.

Third among the four daughters of Jameel and Parveen Sultana, Nikhat wanted to prove that she could do it. She finally proved her mettle with hard work, discipline and commitment.

Within six months after taking to the ring, she won the State championship gold in 2010 in Karimnagar. She was picked for the Rural Nationals in Punjab, where she bagged the gold.

The success run continued as she won the gold in the sub-junior nationals in Tamil Nadu.

Her father Jameel Ahmed was a sales officer in Saudi Arabia before returning home.

“I used to work as a sales assistant in Saudi Arabia for 15 years before I decided to shift base to Nizamabad to support my daughter’s studies and sports,” Nikhat’s father Jameel said.

“While Nikhat’s two elder sisters are doctors, I had to spend time on Nikhat’s training as well as her younger sister, who plays badminton. When Nikhat told us about her willingness to become a boxer, there was no hesitation in our minds. But sometimes, relatives or friends would tell us that a girl should not play a sport where she has to wear shorts. But we knew that whatever Nikhat wanted, we would support her dream,” Jameel added.

Nikhat Zareen and her father Jameel Ahmed (Instagram)

Nikhat did not have to search for a coach either. Spotting the inborn qualities of a boxer, her uncle Mohammed Samsamuddin, started training her in the open space at the Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh (SAAP) training centre in Nizamabad. The lack of proper infrastructure in the town did not deter her from achieving her goal.

Nikhat started practising with her three cousins, who were international boxers. According to Samsamuddin, she developed an interest in boxing after watching his sons, practised with them, and thus grew in confidence and courage.

Though winning a medal at the Olympics is Nikhat’s ultimate goal, her bid in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics ended under controversial circumstances when Mary Kom qualified by defeating her in an intense and ill-tempered trial bout in 2019.

The Boxing Federation of India (BFI) had agreed for the trial bout after Nikhat had thrown the challenge. Earlier, the boxer from Telangana was not happy after the BFI had called off a trial bout at the last minute to send Mary Kom to the 2019 World Championships in Russia.

However, Nikhat put behind the bitterness and overcame a shoulder injury, which had kept her out of action for one year, to remain focused on her career.

(With inputs from Agencies)

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