Nikhat Zareen: Mental training ‘essential’
Indian athletes are unable to handle “mental pressure” at the highest level, according to reigning world champion boxer Nikhat Zareen. She feels specialised training should be given to overcome this hurdle at big-ticket events.
Indian athletes have a tendency to perform well at regular events but falter at the big stage like the Olympics or the World Championships.
“Our Indian boxers are very talented, we are not less than anyone. We have strength, speed and power… everything,” Zareen said when asked where the Indian boxers are lacking.
“It’s just that once you reach that (world) level, it is essential that boxers be given training to handle the mental pressure.
“Once you reach the big platforms, a lot of athletes become nervous and aren’t able to perform,” added Zareen, who was talking at an interaction organised by the Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC).
Zareen, who was crowned the world champion in the flyweight event last month, has also sealed a berth for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, starting on July 28.
A lot has been spoken about how Zareen, who comes from an orthodox society, had to overcome societal prejudice to make a career in boxing. But the 25-year-old made it clear, she fights and wins for India.
“As an athlete I’m here to represent India. I’m not representing a particular community but my country. I’m happy to win a medal for my country.”
Zareen has had to wait long for a chance in the flyweight category which veteran Indian boxer MC Mary Kom has made her own but the Telengana boxer feels the wait increased her hunger to do well.
“Not only for me but other boxers in that category, they too wanted a chance. But you have to prove yourself and I have done that by becoming world champion.
“If I hadn’t struggled and if Mary Kom hadn’t been in my weight category, I might not have worked so hard. And had I not worked hard, I wouldn’t be a world champion today. So I will take it in a positive way. Maybe I had more hunger because I got a chance so late.”
She had infamously asked for a “fair trial” for the Tokyo Olympic qualifiers, also against Mary Kom. After the trial, which Mary Kom had won 9-1, Zareen had attempted to hug the senior boxer but the Manipuri did not respond.
“I felt bad at that time because the person I consider my role model, my idol, behaved in such a way.”