India’s Nikhat Zareen has won the Women’s World Boxing Championships in Turkey, becoming only the fifth Indian woman to be crowned world champion.
The boxer beat Thailand’s Jitpong Jutamas 5-0 in the flyweight division of the championship on Thursday.
“Am I trending on Twitter?” an elated Zareen asked at the press conference after her win.
This is India’s first gold medal at the championship since Olympic boxer Mary Kom won here in 2018.
Kom has been a six-time champion at the tournament. Other Indian women to win the gold medal include boxers Sarita Devi, Jenny RL and Lekha KC.
“Winning a medal at the world’s is always a dream and [that] Nikhat could achieve it so early is extremely commendable,” said Ajay Singh, president of the Boxing Federation of India.
Zareen’s name trended on Twitter as congratulations poured in from across the country. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the boxer had “made India proud”.
“It was always my dream to be a trend on Twitter and to achieve something for my country at the world level is the biggest motivation,” she said after her win.
Zareen, 25, hails from the city of Nizamabad in the southern Indian state of Telangana. She was previously a junior youth world champion.
Her father Mohammad Jameel, who also played sports, has championed her career for the past decade.
“People would object to a Muslim girl wearing shorts to play sports and we learnt to ignore them. But when she won the youth championship, people changed their minds and said she’d proven herself,” he told BBC Telugu.
On Thursday, Mr Jameel said he was “tense but confident” while watching the match.
“Nikhat has been playing so well in the lead up to this match that we were sure she would win. It’s great news for the country and for the Indian boxing federation,” he said. “I am grateful for her dedication [to the sport].”
In the final against Jutamas, judges scored the bout 30-27, 29-28, 29-28, 30-27, 29-28 in Zareen’s favour.
“My target was to win by a unanimous decision if possible as it could have gone either way in a split decision,” she said. “But the second round today was a split round. So I had to give it all in the third round and I am glad I could win.”
At the post-match press conference, Zareen said the last two years had been challenging as the Covid pandemic made training difficult.
In 2021, Zareen lost to Mary Kom at the trials and failed to qualify for the Olympics. Since then, she says, she has focused on improving her game.
“I tried to improve. I worked on my strong points and on where I lacked in my game… All those hurdles which I have faced in my career have made me strong,” she said.
Zareen will now prepare for the Commonwealth Games trials in which she will participate in the 50kg (110.2 lbs) category.