An innocent query landed Nikhat in the boxing ring

Boxing champion Nikhat Zareen with younger sister Afnan Zareen, a badminton player.

Boxing champion Nikhat Zareen with younger sister Afnan Zareen, a badminton player. | Photo Credit: ARRANGEMENT

Like most girls of her age, Nikhat Zareen as a 13-year-old used to wonder whether most sports were a male bastion. Back then, as a student of Nirmala Hrudaya High School, she took baby steps into the world of athletics at the Nizamabad District Sports Authority Ground where she put up an impressive performance in 100-metre and 200-metre events besides shotput.

But it was one innocuous query posed by her that proved to be a game-changer. “Papa, why is there no girl training in boxing when there are so many of them in other disciplines,” asked Nikhat innocently to her father, Mohammed Jameel Ahmed.

And, the response was typical. “Boxing is a sport which involves a lot of body blows, especially on your face. If you sustain a serious injury, you will have problems in the long run on various fronts, including getting married,” her father told her.

In keeping with her indefatigable spirit, which was quite evident during her early days of athletics training, Nikhat came up with a startling reply: “I want to change this. Why only boys, why can’t girls do well in boxing?”

To their delight, Shamsamsuddin, a boxing coach who had made it on his own and and trained his two sons in the ring too, saw a spark in Nikhat and had a long chat with her father. “I believe your daughter would be really good in boxing given the fact that competition will be relatively low for girls, unlike in other sports,” he reasoned.

In just a year, Nikhat started making an impact in boxing, recalls Mr Jameel. “There were many people, including from my own family, who felt I had made the wrong choice by letting her pursue boxing. But being educated myself, I decided to take the big gamble. It was our self belief that made Nikhat take up boxing seriously. More importantly, we left it to the Almighty to bless us,” the proud father adds.

Nikhat’s younger sister Afnan Zareen, who is a national badminton player and training at Suchitra Academy here, echoes feelings of the three sisters of the champion athlete. “Initially, we were scared as she was training with boys. Our mother was more worried about Nikhat getting injured. But hats off to my parents for supporting her despite adverse comments from our own community,” shares the 18-year-old.

The bonding among the sisters has always been unique, adds Ms Afnan, a student of Golden Jubilee College, Nizamabad. “She never had any close friends, for once she started serious training, there was no time for her to mingle with anyone outside. At home, we used to have a lot of fun and share our happiness and disappointments with each other. We were more like friends than sisters. Our only regret was that Nikhat couldn’t have what she liked most when it came to food. She had a strict diet programme for training,” she says.

In hindsight, however, they have no regrets. “It is an emotional time for us, seeing our sister become a world champion, especially given the kind of sacrifices that she has made,” says Ms. Afnan.

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Printable version | May 21, 2022 8:35:27 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/an-innocent-query-landed-nikhat-in-the-boxing-ring/article65439609.ece