Women boxers vying to be on India’s squad for next year’s Olympic Qualifiers will appear for selection trials on December 29-30, the sport’s High Performance Director Santiago Nieva on Saturday, ending a bitter selection row in which the iconic M C Mary Kom was dragged. Putting an end to the speculation, triggered by Boxing Federation of India (BFI) President Ajay Singh’s statement that six-time world champion Mary Kom would be exempt from trials, Nieva said boxers in all the five Olympic categories for women will be picked after selection bouts over two days. The Olympic qualifiers are scheduled to be held in China next year in February.
“All the women boxers for the qualifiers will be decided by trials because the laid down policy was that only the finalists from the World Championships will get direct qualification for the Olympic qualifiers,” Nieva said, referring to the August decision by the BFI executive committee.
None of the women boxers in the Olympic categories -- 51kg, 60kg, 64kg, 69kg, and 75kg -- could make the finals with Mary Kom (51kg) and Lovlina Borgohain (69kg) finishing with bronze medals after semifinal losses. Singh’s statement had prompted former junior world champion Nikhat Zareen to demand a trial against Mary Kom, who has maintained that she would abide by any decision taken by the federation.
Singh had stated that Mary Kom would be exempted from trials given her stupendously consistent performances, which includes two international gold medals besides a world bronze this year. After this, Zareen wrote to Sports minister Kiren Rijiju seeking his intervention which the Minister declined. Singh, on the other hand, has maintained a stoic silence on the matter ever since the controversy broke out.
The male boxers, except world-medallists Amit Panghal (52kg) and Manish Kaushik (63kg), will appear for trials on December 27-28. While Panghal won a silver, Kaushik had claimed a bronze medal at the showpiece in Ekaterinburg.
“Among the men, Amit (52kg) and Manish (63kg) are exempt because they won medals in the world championships and fulfilled the decided criteria. Rest of the six categories (57kg, 69kg, 75kg, 81kg, 91kg, +91kg) will be decided by trials ,” Nieva said.
“My position has always been that since nobody opposed this criteria when it was laid down, we should stick to it to avoid confusion. I have nothing more to say on what’s going on,” Nieva said Singh was, incidentally, not a part of the meeting which laid down the criteria for selection before the world championships but was communicated the minutes of it. Nieva refuted reports that the decision to conduct trials was taken at a recent meeting of the National Sports Federations and the Sports Authority of India in Delhi.
“No, in that meeting, just the previous BFI position was communicated to SAI. Nothing more, nothing less. That meeting was about the roadmap for Indian boxing. The policy on selection trials was just informed, no decision was taken,” he asserted.