Former junior world boxing champion Nikhat Zareen and Meena Kumari Devi are not new faces in the circuit. On Tuesday, they proved their worth by becoming the first set of Indian women boxers to notch up gold medals at the 70th Strandja Memorial tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Zareen is a multiple-time national medallist. She grabbed the gold by winning a 5-0 set match in the 51kg category finals against Filipino Irish Magno. Devi, on the other hand, silenced Philippines-based Aira Villegas 3-2 in the bantamweight (54kg) summit clash. However, Manju Rani (48kg) settled for a silver after going down to another Filipino, Josie Gabuco, in a split 2-3 verdict.

After the historic win, Zareen who is from Hyderabad, took to Twitter to share the triumph and dedicated the medal to Indian jawans. “I am very happy to win gold for India at the Strandja Cup. I dedicate this medal to the families of the CRPF jawans who lost their lives in the Pulwama attack,” she wrote. She referred to last week’s terrorist attack that killed 40 CRPF personnel in Jammu and Kashmir on February 14.

While Zareen pulled it off by denying her rival a clear shot, Devi, a bronze medallist in the previous edition of the prestigious tournament, bettered her podium performance with a dominating show against Villegas.

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“My entire thought process in the bout was to never give up. My opponent had beaten Pinki Jangra in the first round and I just wanted to prove that I could get the better of her,” Zareen told PTI.

“This win is also my response to all those who doubt my ability. I am just emotionally overwhelmed right now,” added the 22-year-old, who was denied a trial before the Asian Games last year despite being fit.

“The key to this success has been stress management. It has been a conscious decision to keep the pressure off them and constantly remind them of their strengths,” said India’s chief coach for women, Mohammed Ali Qamar, who took over the top position only last month.

On Monday, Pwilao Basumatari (64kg), Neeraj (60kg) and Lovlina Borgohain (69kg) had settled for bronze medals after losing their semifinal bouts.

Feature Image Credit: BFI_official/Twitter

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