Is BFI doing injustice to Nikhat Zareen?

Talented young Indian pugilist, Nikhat Zareen has made the headlines today for her fair play approach to the Sports Minister of India, Kiren Rijiju. She has raised her voice against the Boxing Federation of India (BFI) decision to supposedly allocate Mary Kom’s direct entry into the Tokyo Olympic qualifiers which is to be held in Wuhan from February 3 to 14 2020.

The first thing to note in this controversy is that Zareen was the first choice in 51kg category until Mary Kom shifted from 48 kg. She won gold at Standja Memorial, silver at Thailand Open and bronze medal at the Asian Championships. She is also in the government’s Target Olympic Podium Scheme for the Tokyo Olympics.

Ahead of the World Championships this year, BFI had said that gold and silver medallists from the Worlds will directly go for Olympic qualifiers but now BFI president has said that since bronze medallists in men’s division make direct qualification, women will too - a tweak of rule that directly benefits Mary Kom and puts Zareen at a disadvantageous position. This is the second time Zareen has been in the receiving end of unfair rules & decisions from the authority, the first being when BFI selectors exempted Mary Kom on the day of the bout after the draw for 51kg was made at the trials of World Championships in August.

This is directly a matter or internal politics that can harm the future of a talented athlete. The authorities should stick to their words and grant opportunities based on the performance and not brand. What is your take on this?

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Here is Nikhat Zareen’s letter to Sports Ministry. I completely agree with her views. No favours - no athlete should be above rules.

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With due respect and admiration for Mary Kom, if this indeed is the case, then BFI or for that matter any association cannot bend rules to accommodate big names.

As rightly said by Nikhat, every athlete deserves an equal opportunity to compete and earn the qualification spot to represent the country. No matter how many medals you have won in the past, each time the athlete needs to prove his / her ability and the qualification criteria cannot be adjusted for anyone.

Hope to see the Sports Ministry take corrective action to rectify the matter or athletes will lose hope in the system. Lack of fair play will set the wrong precedent and will deter athletes from dreaming big and faith in pursuing their dream.

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One who can perform better should play for India. Mary Kom being a Champion should not shy away from the trials and play fair match with Nikhat Zareen. May the best of the two represent India in the Tokyo Olympics.

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In an interview to Republic TV, Mary Kom said: “Who is Nikhat Zareen,I don’t know her.” She further added that she is shocked by the controversy. “I am really shocked by all this. I have won eight World Championship medals, including six gold. Let the Boxing Federation of India decide whom they want. How can she cry like this? She cannot lobby to get a place in the Indian team. This is not done,” she said.

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Nikhat Zareen is set to have a selection trial against the six-time world champion, MC Mary Kom in the last week of December for Olympics qualifiers. As per reports, BFI president Ajay Singh has decide to send India’s representative for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic qualifiers in the 51kg category after Nikhat demanded a trial bout and had written to Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju

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