‘Nikhat, Lovlina will get direct Asian Games berths’

ByAvishek Roy, New Delhi
Mar 25, 2023 11:18 PM IST

India’s Irish high-performance director Bernard Dunne backed his policy of selecting boxers based on their form at the camp

Nikhat Zareen and Lovlina Borgohain have booked their spots for this year’s Asian Games which will be a qualifier for the Paris Olympics, India’s high performance director Bernard Dunne said on Saturday.

Nikhat Zareen has qualified for Asian Games.(PTI)
Nikhat Zareen has qualified for Asian Games.(PTI)

Newly crowned world champion Nitu Ghanghas (48kg), who was looking to go up to the 50kg Olympic category, will have to wait for her opportunity as finalists at the ongoing world championships are being given direct spots for Asian Games as per the Boxing Federation of India’s (BFI) selection policy.

Also Read | Nitu Ghanghas beats Lutsaikhan Altantsetseg to hand India first gold at World Boxing C'ships 2023

“If you look at the policy, those who win gold medals and silver medals here get selection for the Asian Games in Olympic weights,” he said.

“But anything can happen between now and the Asian Games, someone might get injured or fall sick. So, we have to prepare our No 2 and No 3 boxers as well in those weight divisions. If you are called upon to go out there, you should be ready. We need to make sure everyone is focussed.”

Asked if Nitu wants to move up to 50kg, Bernard said those in non-Olympic weights will be allowed to change divisions in the camp. In 50kg and 75kg, Nikhat Zareen and Lovlina Borgohain have made the final so they will go directly to the Asian Games. In the other Olympic categories – 54kg, 57kg, 60kg and 66kg – the selection will be based on the assessment made at training.

“Nitu’s job is to make sure she continues to focus on what she is doing today. We don’t think beyond that,” he said.

Asked about the selection issue, Nitu, the newly crowned 48kg champion, said she will follow the federation’s directive.

The new policy introduced before the world championships means there won’t be selection trials for major championships. However, trials will be held to pick boxers for the national camp. Boxers who have participated in Olympic weights at this worlds will be selected for the camp and two other boxers will be picked from the trials.

“We will continue with the assessment. We have very objective measures and boxers are challenging themselves every week in the camp. My job is to give each athlete the best opportunity to be the No 1. It’s up to them to take that opportunity and show to the team that they are the No 1. My job is tough, but I have to pick the best team for India,” said the former Irish champion.

The new selection policy had generated controversy with three national champions unsuccessfully petitioning the Delhi high court.

“When we conduct selection trials, we are letting judges determine who is the best boxer after three rounds. If an athlete falls sick ahead of the trials then what happens? The system we have right now empowers the coaches who see the boxers day in and day out and allows those who best know the athletes to decide on selection,” he said.

He is happy with the performance of the team with four boxers reaching the final and youngster Preeti showing promise in 54kg.

“It has been a pleasure to work with them. We want specific feedback. The boxers keep asking ‘where am I doing wrong’? We have great strength in the squad. My job is to make them better and that’s a constantly evolving process. The focus is on the Asian Games, which is an Olympic qualifier.”

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