'All I am saying is just give me a chance. It is my dream to compete in the Olympics too.'
'I am not saying let me go to the Olympics. I am asking for a fair chance for a trial.'
'All these years I have been training for what? What is the point if I cannot compete?'
Nikhat Zareen emerged as one of the hottest commodities in Indian boxing following a stupendous showing in the Strandja Boxing Memorial tournament in Bulgaria in February, becoming the first Indian woman 51kg pugilist to clinch gold at the prestigious tournament.
Expectations from the 23 year old from Nizamabad only grew; she was billed as the flagbearer of the rich legacy of Indian boxing in the near future.
Fast forward to this day: Nikhat seems unsure about her future.
The former junior World champion has appealed to Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju demanding a trial bout against M C Mary Kom, the country's most decorated boxer, before India's squad for next year's Olympic Qualifiers is finalised.
Mary Kom (51 kg) claimed her eighth World medal at the recent women's World Championships in Russia. She was selected for the event ahead of Zareen who was refused a trial by the Boxing Federation of India which decided to go by the 33-year-old Manipuri boxing legend's consistent performances while making the choice.
The BFI also plans to send Mary Kom for the Olympic qualifiers on the back of her bronze-winning show at the World Championships, moving away from the previous decision to give direct selection only to gold and silver medal winners.
The qualifiers will be held in China in February and Nikhat -- about whom Mary Kom reportedly asked irritatedly, 'Who is Nikhat Zareen?' -- wants a 'fair chance' to realise her dream of making it to the Olympics.
"I lost once to her. That doesn't mean my whole life I will lose," Nikhat tells Laxmi Negi/Rediff.com.
Mary Kom could be given direct selection for the Olympic qualifiers.
Number kab lagega hamara? (When will my chance come?) I dread my career will be over waiting over it.
I know all my coaches support me, but for the situation I am in today, I blame myself.
Sometimes I blame my luck too. I keep thinking why I had to land up in this controversial weight category.
Right from my junior days I have always been bordering in and around 50 kg. 51kg is my weight category unlike Mary Kom's (48kg).
Why are you talking about it now?
Let me tell you what happened during the World Championships trials. I was told there would be trials for the 51kg weight category. Weighing in also took place.
Just before I was about to enter the ring I was told my bout would be tomorrow. I sensed something was wrong.
Next morning, I again went for the weighing in, but I was told it was not needed since it was done the other day.
In the evening, when the draw list was out, I did not see my name on it.
I was shocked! I kept asking everyone the reason, but I did not get any response.
I wrote an e-mail to the BFI, but did not receive any response. I kept asking the selection committee whose decision it was not to hold a trial. They said ask the federation.
I kept asking, who is the federation. I sent a message, tried calling the BFI president, but he did not reply. It was then that I realised that everyone was ignoring me.
The team was announced and I could not do anything about it.
This time for the Olympic qualifiers I do not want to take any risk. I want to build my case. That is why I wrote to the sports minister.
You met the sports minister at an awards function. Did you tell him about your plight?
No. I thought it was not the right moment and right place to discuss. I thought it would be awkward.
What made you write to him?
After the team arrived from the World Championships there was a felicitation function in which the BFI president announced that, just like the men's medal winners, all the women bronze medallists too will be automatically selected for the Olympic qualifiers.
I was disheartened when I read that. That's when I thought of writing about my plight on a public platform.
Will you change your weight category?
As a junior in the National camp, I have seen it all. The politics of the selection.
I saw it all happening to Sarita Devi for the London Olympics and Pinki Jangra for the Rio Olympics.
Sarita Devi challenged Mary Kom for the 51 kg and then changed to 57kg. She has changed a lot of categories.
I definitely didn't feel good about it. So, for now, I will be boxing in the 51kg until 2020. The future, I don't know. I might go up a weight category depending upon the situation.
Abhinav Bindra has come out in your support.
He was one of the first ones to support me openly. It felt great!
There was a line (in the report) that read Bindra and I am with JSW (Jindal Steel Works Institute of Sports) and that might have prompted him to tweet in my support. I would like to clarify that I am not associated with JSW anymore.
Critics point out that you lost to Mary Kom in the India Open 2018.
I had a shoulder dislocation in 2017. But I am not giving any excuses; I am not saying the judges were biased. I lost once to her. That doesn't mean my whole life I will lose.
Boxing is a very unpredictable sport. I might be leading in two rounds, but in the third round what if my opponent lands a knockout punch? So, on a given day, anyone can win.
I would also bring to your notice that in the same tournament (the India Open) Shiva Thapa beat Manish Kaushik, but during the trials Manish won. He went to the World Championships, won a bronze and secured a place for himself in the Olympic qualifiers.
All I am saying is just give me a chance. It is my dream to compete in the Olympics too.
I am not saying let me go to the Olympics. I am asking for a fair chance for a trial.
All these years I have been training for what? What is the point if I cannot compete?