Commonwealth Games 2022 closing ceremony: The chosen co-flagbearer —alongside table tennis player Achanta Sharath Kamal — Zareen defeated Carly MC Naul of Northern Ireland in the final match of women’s 50 kg (light flyweight) category at the CWG 2022 in Birmingham on Sunday. But there's much more to her than meets the eye.
As the Commonwealth Games 2022 comes to an end, boxer Nikhat Zareen and table tennis player Achanta Sharath Kamal will be India’s flagbearers at the closing ceremony of the event, ANI reported, quoting sources from the Indian Olympic Association (IOA).
IBA Women Boxing World Champion Zareen clinched gold in her first Commonwealth Games ever, while Achanta Sharath Kamal won four medals, including gold in men’s table tennis singles event against British paddler Liam Pitchford.
Zareen defeated Carly MC Naul of Northern Ireland in the final match of the women’s 50 kg (Light Flyweight) category at the CWG 2022 in Birmingham on August 7. She dominated in the final match against Carly, winning by 5-0 on basis of points scored.
After her assertive win, Zareen dedicated the medal to her mother and the motherland.
“Finally, here is my gift as promised to my Ammi and the Motherland,” the boxer wrote on Twitter
Finally, here is my gift as promised to my Ammi and the Motherland 🇮🇳Ecstatic to win the Gold after a thoroughly joyous CWG in Birmingham. Your support and love moves me.🙏#B2022 #TeamIndia pic.twitter.com/o3nULer5th— Nikhat Zareen (@nikhat_zareen) August 8, 2022
Who is Nikhat Zareen?
Zareen was born on June 14, 1996, in Nizamabad, Telangana, to Mohammad Jameel Ahmad and Parveen Sultana. She was said to have been the naughtiest among her siblings. To channel Zareen’s overflowing energy, her father Mohammad Jameel Ahmad, who played cricket and football in his youth, trained her to run. However, even though she excelled on the tracks in short sprints and even won gold at a district-level sprinting contest, Zareen was attracted to boxing. Initially, her family did not support the idea of her boxing. However, Zareen’s father always stood by her.
Zareen won the first sub-junior national title at the age of 14. In 2013, she won the Youth World Championship in Turkey and started her difficult transition to the senior circuit.
Mary Kom, the idol and opponent
Like most young boxers in India, Manipur’s Mary Kom, who won six world championship gold medals, five Asian championship titles and an Olympic bronze, was a role model for Zareen.
However, Kom was also her opponent in the flyweight (51 kg) division.
In 2019, Zareen had opposed Mary Kom’s automatic selection for the World Championships. She had then said no boxer should be chosen without a contest. Although Zareen’s demand was overlooked back then, the two boxers faced each other for the Olympic qualifiers.
Zareen lost the bout fair and square by 9-1 to Mary Kom. However, more than the loss, the “abuse from a boxer she once considered a role model” left her disheartened.
Following her defeat to Kom, Zareen trained under Ronald Simms, former coach of the US Air Force team, at the Inspire Institute of Sports in Vijaynagar.
In 2019, Zareen won a silver medal at the Thailand Open, followed by a bronze at the Asian Championships and another bronze at the India Open. She went on to win the gold medal at the Strandja Memorial the same year.
In 2022, the Nizamabad boxer went on a rampage during the world championships in Istanbul, Turkey. She won all her bouts by a unanimous decision. She outpunched Tokyo Olympian Jutamas Jitpong of Thailand in the 52 kg category final to win the gold medal for India at the 12th edition of the IBA Woman's World Boxing Championship.
With her victory, Zareen became the fifth Indian woman to clinch gold in the World Boxing Championships after Sarita Devi (2006), Jenny RL (2006), Lekha KC (2006), and Mary Kom (2002, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2018).
A biryani lover
When she is not boxing, Zareen likes to spend her time watching movies and eating tehri and biryani. She is a huge fan of actor Salman Khan and hopes to meet him one day.