When I’m nervous, my body works well, says Paris-bound Nikhat Zareen

Ever since the 28-year-old secured the Olympic quota at the Hangzhou Asian Games in October last year, she has had her eye set on the biggest prize in her sport.

When I’m nervous, my body works well, says Paris-bound Nikhat Zareen

Photo: Nikhat Zareen (Picture Credits - IANS)

Nikhat Zareen has seen it all in her brief yet eventful career. Once battling for a fair trial against her idol MC Mary Kom, the Nizamabad-born pugilist has taken rapid strides with two World Championship gold medals, a Commonwealth Games gold and an Asian Games bronze. As she chases her ultimate dream of winning an Olympic medal in Paris next month, Nikhat admitted that nervousness is something she lives with and thrives on.

Ever since the 28-year-old secured the Olympic quota at the Hangzhou Asian Games in October last year, she has had her eye set on the biggest prize in her sport. But behind the ferocious and aggressive Nikhat inside the ring, she candidly admitted that there remains an element of nervousness inside that pushes her to perform.

“Before every competition I get nervous. If I don’t get nervous, my body doesn’t work the way I want. When I’m nervous, my body works well. I’m more focussed. Also, this is my first Olympics and I don’t have the experience of playing at the Olympics. That is also the reason I’m nervous.”


“Just because I am now an experienced boxer does not mean I shouldn’t be getting nervous. But once I enter the ring, I don’t think about the outside world. I just want to win my bouts and come back with a medal,” said Nikhat while adding that her family and close friends help her calm her nerves.

“Before going to the venue, I listen to music. I pray and also play games which help me get distracted,” Nikhat, who’s currently training at SAI NSNIS (Patiala), said during a virtual interaction facilitated by the Sports Authority of India and Boxing Federation of India.

Nikhat’s rapid rise in India’s boxing scene started from the 2022 Strandja Memorial gold, and since then she dominated and won gold in every tournament that followed before it came to a halt with a bronze at the Asian Games in Hangzhou.

The Asiad bronze perhaps came as a blessing in disguise for Nikhat, who had started to believe that she had, in fact, become unbeatable. After the setback, the Telangana boxer went back to the drawing board and bounced back with a silver at the Strandja Memorial last February before travelling to Montenegro for a two-week training camp alongside boxers from various countries and engaged in sparring sessions.

She also traveled to Turkey, where she sparred with a Tokyo Olympic silver medalist and World Champion Buse Naz Cakiroglu, who happens to be one of the main rivals in Zareen’s 50kg weight category.

“I had a really good experience pairing with her [Cakiroglu] and it gave me confidence to do well in Elorda Cup,” she said.

Nikhat returned to her golden ways when she secured a gold in the 2024 edition of the Elorda Cup in Astana, Kazakhstan. “I was really happy with the way I performed and hopefully, I keep continue to work hard and do well at the Olympics too,” she said.

Nikhat accepted that the Olympics would pose a different challenge as she expects every opponent to be a tough one but exuded confidence on her skills to thrive under pressure.

“Some tough opponents are there, but I cannot ignore others. With no ranking and no seeding, luck will play its part. Hope to get a good draw. In the 2023 World championships, since I came down from 52kg to 50kg, I was unseeded. So it does not matter. You want to win no matter how tough the draw is.”

“Seeding doesn’t matter much because there are a lot of boxers who couldn’t win a medal despite having a seeding. I feel whatever happens, however the draw might be, I just want to win. That is the mindset I like to possess. I have also realised that, whenever things are tough, I tend to perform better,” she added.

For Nikhat, the last three years have been a dream run, and as she aims for that ultimate prize in Paris, she expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to transform from a mere challenger to becoming the face of Indian boxing.

“I didn’t think that a girl who was once only seen as a challenger (could become) the face of Indian boxing. I feel blessed and grateful (that I have been able to fulfil) my dreams. The first was to become World Champion, which I was able to win twice,” she said.

In the same breath, she did remind herself once again that the journey is not over yet. The biggest prize she has ever targeted is yet to be achieved. “When I fulfil that dream, then I can say, ‘Yes, I did whatever I set out to achieve,’” said Nikhat as she hopes to remain injury free and in a good mental space before boarding the flight for her maiden Olympics.