"First tell me, am I trending on Twitter? (laughs) You know, that was one of my dreams, to trend on Twitter and if I am then I'm really happy. " That was one of Nikhat Zareen's first reactions after becoming world champion in the 52kg category on Thursday.
Nikhat achieved the feat by beating Thailand's Jitpong Jutamas in the 52kg final by a unanimous verdict. This was her first World Championships medal and her second gold medal of the year - she had won the Strandja Memorial in February.
The first Indian boxer in 14 years, other than Mary Kom, to win the World Championships, Nikhat feels this is a step towards her dream of an Olympic medal. "I'm happy and feeling really emotional that I've won the gold medal for my country. I will now do my best to fulfil my dream of winning an Olympic medal," she said.
Talking about the final, where she won the first round but saw Jitpong make a comeback in the second, she said, "I just wanted to give my best and win by unanimous decision. A split decision can go either way, so I did not want to take the chance. The idea was to win the first two rounds by unanimous decision and then take it a little easy in the third round. [But since she won the second round by split decision] I had to go all out in the third round."
Istanbul has been a happy hunting ground for Nikhat. She won the 2011 Women's Junior and Youth World Boxing Championships here and bagged bronze at the Bosphorus boxing tournament last year. Thursday's gold though, was in a league of its own. Nikhat won each of her four bouts by a 5-0 margin, further extending her unbeaten start to 2022.
Nikhat currently competes in the non-Olympic 52kg category and will switch to the 50kg category for the upcoming Commonwealth Games. "It is a little hard [to change weight categories] as there are differences in each category. You are at a disadvantage if you go from a lower category to a higher one as most boxers drop weight before events to make the cut and you'd be facing stronger boxers."
"But if I go to 50kg, it won't make that big of a difference because my current weight is at 51kg and I'll only have to drop a little bit of weight. I will continue in the 50kg category if my body responds well," she added.
With the World Championships gold medal in the bag, Nikhat now shifts focus to the Commonwealth Games, which get underway in Birmingham on July 28. She's clear that the "preparation for the Paris Olympics has already begun", but added that she wants to take it step by step.
"The challenge is to continue to keep the body in peak condition. I came back from the Strandja Memorial and then attended the trials for the World Championships and Asian Games. I faced some very experienced and decorated boxers in Strandja and then had to keep my body calm and composed to give the trials. I then began work for the World Championships and will now begin preparing for the Commonwealth Games. The main focus is to stay injury-free," she said.