India’s High Performance Director (HPD) Bernard Dunne on Saturday confirmed star boxers Nikhat Zareen and Lovina Borgohain have qualified for the Asian Games, which are also the first Olympic Qualifiers for the 2024 Paris Games. For selection to the Asian Games, to be held from September 23 to October 8 in Hangzhou, China, the Boxing Federation of India’s (BFI) policy states “Athletes who achieve Gold/Silver at World championships will be an automatic selection for the first Olympic qualifier at the Asian Games.”
It means Nikhat (50kg) and Lovlina (75kg), who have reached the light flyweight and middleweight final of the ongoing World Championships respectively, have qualified for the continental event.
“Those who win gold or silver here (at the World Championships) are the automatic selection for the Asian Games,” Dunne told reporters.
At the Asian Games, women pugilists will compete in five weight categories: 51kg, 57kg, 60kg, 69kg and 75kg. While the Olympics will have six weight classes — 50kg, 54kg, 57kg, 60kg, 66kg and 75kg.
This means the minimum weight (48kg) world champion Nitu Ghanghas and Saweety Boora (81kg), who has also reached the final, will be standby boxers should they decide to change to an Olympic weight class.
“Anybody who is changing weight categories will have to be second or third. But in case something happens to the ones who have qualified, we want our number two and three to be ready,” Dunne said.
He also asserted that the new evaluation process is here to stay.
The BFI has done away with the selection trials. According to the new policy, which was created in cooperation with Dunne, boxers will have to undergo an evaluation process instead.
Ahead of the ongoing Women’s World Championships, there was a lot of hue and cry over the new policy with three boxers in the national camp — Manju Rani, Shiksha Narwal and Poonam Poonia — even moving court due to their non-selection.
“There is no plan for any selection trials in my opinion,” Dunne said.
Talking about the new policy, Dunne added, “The big part was to give clarity to the athletes.
“Trials was the old system, but that’s only one moment… three three minute rounds decided by judges. But in this new system we, the coaches and I, are monitoring them day in day out. God forbid someone gets ill, or something happens during the trials.” Asked if he will encourage boxers to switch to Olympic categories in the run-up to the Paris Games, Dunne said, “We want to empower our athletes, some may want to change weight categories while some may not, that’s also fine,” Dunne said.
Dunne has been serving in the role for a few months now and he feels he’s had to take some hard calls.
“The biggest challenge I have (after becoming the HPD) faced is the decisions I have had to make. For this tournament I have made 12 people happy but 24 unhappy.
“I have no allegiance to anybody, no bias towards any state. I come here with a clear focus to pick the best. It is up to the athletes to show me and the coaches you are the best.”
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