A long-cherished Olympic debut just about three months away, two-time world champion boxer Nikhat Zareen has hit “energy-saving mode” ahead of her date with destiny. So, she is off social media, is embracing solitude, devouring sweets on her cheat days, and binge-watching Netflix magnum opus ‘Heeramandi’. Zareen, who is a medal favourite in the 50kg category, believes activities that might sound like leisure to many, are actually legitimate ways to ensure that she has a calm frame of mind ahead of the Games beginning in Paris on July 26.

“Honestly, the feeling that I am going to be an Olympian soon hasn’t sunk in yet. As days are passing, the nervousness is increasing. But I always train my brain to focus on a good performance,” she told PTI in an interview from Patiala.

The 27-year-old from Hyderabad is a former junior world champion. She won consecutive senior world titles in 2022 and 2023.

Her 2022 season was nothing short of sensational as she remained undefeated and she would be hoping to hit similar peak in Paris.

“Every competition brings with it a degree of nervousness. You have expectations from yourself and the people around you also have expectations. It all adds up to the overall weight you feel on your mind.

“You cope with it by working hard, keeping your focus and having a calm mind, basically not allow yourself to be distracted. So, I am off social media, and I also try to keep my distance from people in general,” she revealed.

“Basically, I have hit energy saving mode, indulge my sweet tooth on cheat days, do grocery shopping, listen to music, it helps me stay calm. Also, I watch movies or Netflix shows. I am watching ‘Heeramandi’ right now, it’s quite interesting,” she said.

A believer in destiny, Zareen said she could have been an Olympian in Tokyo itself. She had lost a bitter selection trial to six-time world champion M C Mary Kom, who went on to qualify for the Games.

“Everyone knowns how badly I wanted to go to Tokyo. But it wasn’t destined. The setback made me resolute. The day I qualified for Paris, I was so happy that it is difficult for me to describe. It was like one major dream coming true,” she said.

“But then it hit me that it’s just half the job done.” Olympic preparations are not always about merely training, as nutrition, and psychological readiness play a role too. The mental part of it becomes all the more significant in her sport, which is often described as lonely.

“But you have to fight your battles, you can sometime share your thoughts with with your support staff or team but end of the day, it’s you who has to fight inside the ring, you are alone there,” she said.

“You have to condition your mind to believe that ‘acche din aayenge’ (good days will come). That this is my journey and I have to endure,” she explained.

What helps is the fact that women’s boxing is fetching material incentives now, something which wasn’t the case when she started.

“Once Mary didi won that Olympic medal in 2012 (a bronze), people took women’s boxing seriously. I was among those who felt inspired. Boxing is not a sport that you can play for too long. Injury can happen anytime.

“But the fact that you are being rewarded so much for international performances, it’s making people push themselves to succeed. It’s good for the future,” she said.

Talking of future, the sport’s Olympic status continues to hang in balance due to the International Olympic Committee’s refusal to recognise the International Boxing Association over governance issues and alleged corruption.

Zareen said she is hopeful of a solution.

“These things are not in our hands. Obviously it feels bad but I hope things will improve and IOC and IBA will find a solution. I believe boxing will stay in the Olympics,” she asserted.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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