I perform better when I have tough draw: Zareen ready for challenging bouts in Olympics

New Delhi, 12 Jun: Two-time world champion Nikhat Zareen is unperturbed about potentially facing tough opponents in the early stages of her maiden Olympics, saying that she performs better when she is handed a difficult draw.
The 27-year-old qualified for the Paris Games in the 50 kg weight class during the Asian Games in October last year.
“In the Olympics, there is no seeding, no ranking. So, it’s all about your luck there. I don’t know whom I’ll be facing in the first round or in the second round,” Zareen said in an interaction facilitated by SAI in collaboration with IOA and BFI.
Zareen is no stranger to taking the tough route to winning a tournament. Unseeded after moving down from 52kg to 50kg, she had won her second World Championships title last year in New Delhi.
“Seeding doesn’t matter that much because there are a lot of boxers who even after seeding, don’t win a medal. But I have also noticed that whenever I have a tough draw, I perform well at that time,” she said.
Zareen has competed in a couple of tournaments since qualifying for the Olympics. She won the silver medal at the prestigious Strandja Memorial tournament earlier this year before winning at the Elorda Cup in May.
While she is satisfied with her preparations, Zareen is still nervous, which she termed good.
“As the days are going by I’m getting nervous. It is my thing because when I’m nervous, my body works well and I’m more focused. And also, this is my first Olympics,” she said.
The Asian Games, where she returned with a bronze medal, was a learning experience for Zareen, who had lost a close semifinal bout to Thailand’s Chuthamat Raksat after a slow start. It also marked the end of Zareen’s winning run that went back to late 2021.
“In the Asian Games, I lost to the Thai opponent. I was not aggressive in the first round. So, I lost by split decision. I have learnt from that.”
With the Olympics starting next month, Zareen is focusing on being “mentally fit and injury free.”
Asked how her life has changed in the past couple of years, Zareen said “I never thought that a girl who used to be known as a challenger (to MC Mary Kom) has become the face of Indian boxing.”
“It’s a big thing for me that I am getting to see this. I feel blessed and grateful that God has made me so capable that my dream of becoming a world champion has come true.
“But the journey is not yet over. My ultimate dream is to win an Olympic medal.” (PTI)