Former junior world champion boxer Nikhat Zareen has written to Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju, demanding a trial bout against the celebrated M C Mary Kom before India's squad for next year's Olympic Qualifiers is decided. Mary Kom (51kg) claimed her eighth world medal at the recently-concluded championships in Russia. She was selected for the event ahead of Zareen, who was refused a trial by the Boxing Federation of India (BFI), which decided to go by Mary Kom's consistent performances while making the choice. The BFI now 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 the gold and silver winners. The qualifiers will be held in China in February next year.
"Sir, the very basis of sport is fairplay and need to keep proving oneself each and every time. Even Olympic gold medallists have to fight again to qualify to represent the country," she wrote in the letter. "I have been inspired by Mary Kom since I was a teenager. The best way I can do justice to this inspiration was to strive to be as great a boxer as her. And Mary Kom is too big a legend in sport to need to hide from competition and not actually defend her Olympic qualification," she said.
Interestingly, the BFI criteria for men made it possible for even the bronze-winners to get direct selection. "After all, if 23-time gold-medallist Michael Phelps has to re-qualify every time for the Olympics, the rest of us should do the same." Mary Kom has maintained that she would follow the BFI guidelines on selection trials and will compete if asked by the federation.
The Sports Ministry is not entitled to intervene in selection matters of any national federation unless requested by the parent international body as any such unilateral move is considered a violation of the Olympic Charter. Zareen said even if she were to lose the trial bout, should she get one, she would feel content about at least getting a chance.
"I look for no favours, just fairplay. And whether Mary Kom or any other boxer qualifies after the trial, we can at least sleep at night knowing that every one of the candidate for the best possible opportunity to make India proud at Olympics," she said.