Asian Championships bronze medallist Nikhat Zareen complained on Wednesday that the federation didn’t conduct trials for the 51kg and 69kg categories to select the squad for the World Championships in Russia in October, picking MC Mary Kom and Lovlina Borgohain without any contests, in a departure from the original competition schedule.
“As per our discussion yesterday and your assurance that my bout for the 51kg for the World Championships trials will surely happen today, I’m surprised to see that the schedule list which was circulated this (Wednesday) morning, my name and weight category doesn’t feature. This is in light of the fact that yesterday my name and weight category was there in the schedule (and) was supposed to be the first bout. Still at the last moment, we were told by all of you officials that my fight with Vanduatilal of All India Police will not take place. I request an urgent explanation as to what is happening and what is the final decision in this regard,” Zareen wrote.
While the World Championships will be held in 10 weight categories, the focus has been on the five Olympic classes. While the trials are taking place till Thursday, bouts in six categories including 51kg were scheduled for Tuesday, before the BFI selection committee changed its mind.
“All the boxers were present in the hall and had read about the notice and schedule about the bouts. Nikhat was told just before her bout that there will be no trials in her category,” said a women boxer, who is a member of the national camp.
Chairman of selectors Rajesh Bhandari said Mary’s pedigree and record in the ring, as well as her recent form, persuaded them to cancel the trial.
“We had told the boxers after the selection committee meeting on Tuesday that we will not have trials in 51kg and 69kg categories. We received a representation from Mary Kom’s coach Chotte Lal Yadav and we all came to the conclusion that Mary has performed consistently in this weight category and has the experience and performance,” Bhandari said.
“We all were of the view that Mary needs to prepare for the World Championships and Olympic qualifiers. Mary has a plan and she did not participated in Asian Championships as she was focusing on training. Hence, we decided that there should be no trials in the 51kg category. Mary had defeated Nikhat at the India Open earlier this year and Nikhat had only won bronze there. We also decided against holding trials in the 69kg class.
“Regarding trials before the Olympic qualifiers next year, we will meet on August 19 and decide whether to have them or give preference to individual performance,” he said.
Six-time world champion and 2012 Olympic medallist Mary has been shifting between 48kg and 51kg in recent years and won the gold medal in the lower weight class at last year’s World Championships in New Delhi.
She has three world titles each in 46kg and 48kg and also won the gold medal at last year’s Commonwealth Games in the latter. This year has seen Kom win the gold medal in 51kg category in the India Open, where she defeated Zareen in the semifinals, and the President’s Cup in Thailand last month.
In comparison, Zareen, who had competed in the 2016 World Championships in 54kg category, moved to 51kg in 2017 and won a gold in Stranja Memorial Championship in Bulgaria last year apart from defeating Pinki Jangra in the Asian Championships trials this year and winning bronze in Asian Championships in Bangkok in April this year.
In Bangkok, Zareen upset two-time 48kg world champion Nazym Kyzaibay of Kazakhstan in the 51kg quarterfinals before losing to 2018 Asian Games gold medallist Nguyen Thi Tam of Vietnam in the semis.
Raffaele Bergamasco, the high performance director of women’s boxing, told Rhe Indian Express that he had asked the selection committee to hold trials in each category.
“When I was asked in the selection meeting, I said that we should have trials in each weight category in the women’s events to decide the best boxer in that category,” he said.
While the BFI conducted trials in all weight categories earlier, it has been following a new selection policy based on performance and ranking with exceptions in some weight categories for the last two years. With the Olympic qualifiers in eight men’s categories and five women’s categories from January to April next year, the national body will come up the selection criteria soon.
“I am currently in Patiala and was not present in the selection committee meeting. So I don’t know what happened in the meeting. It is my personal view that we should consider long-term performance over a period rather than trials and we have been following that. We decided to not conduct trials for the world championships in Amit Panghal’s weight category but did so for the other classes. But we informed the boxers well in advance and had done so in earlier trials also, when we did not conduct trials in some categories. All of us should be clear about the process,” said Santiago Nieva, India’s chief high performance director (Men and women).