Mary Kom stoked fresh controversy days after young boxer Nikhat Zareen alleged a selection bias in the Boxing Federation of India (BFI) choice for Olympics
During an interview, when the Boxing Champion was asked about the allegations of bias, she said that she does not know who Zareen is and went on to add that she would like to rather not comment on the situation.
"Who is she? I don't know. Let the BFI handle it and decide. Actually it is not my hands right now, because what I say is right or wrong," Mary Kom can be heard saying in an interview to Times Now.
— Karishma Singh (@karishmasingh22) October 19, 2019
The 36-year-old Kom, an Olympic bronze medallist from London 2012, has been given an automatic spot in a qualifying competition for Tokyo 2020 by the BFI. Controversy erupted when Nikhat Zareen alleged the six-times world champion has received special treatment from the country's federation over the Olympic qualification and argued that Kom should have to go through trials.
The BFI initially announced that only the finalists of the recent world championships would be automatically selected for the Olympic qualifier in China early next year while others would have to earn a spot through trials.
Kom, however, was only a semi-finalist at the worlds in Russia earlier this month, eventually coming away with a bronze, her eighth medal in total at the championships.
Even Kom's selection for the event in Russia was mired in controversy after the BFI exempted her from trials for those championships.
Zareen, whose hopes of competing at the Tokyo Olympics will be over if Kom qualifies in China, has written to sports minister Kiren Rijiju demanding his intervention. Kom has said she would follow BFI instructions.
"I have been inspired by Mary Kom since I was a teenager," Zareen wrote in her letter to the minister.
"The best way I can do justice to this inspiration was to strive to be as great a boxer as her...
"I have been reliably informed that the rule is now being changed again to accommodate my senior Mary Kom as the Indian candidate without a trial."
Her cause has received support from other athletes, including shooter Abhinav Bindra, India's only individual Olympic gold medallist, who said Kom's past achievements should not grant her favourable treatment.
"While I have all the respect for Mary Kom...In sport, yesterday NEVER counts," Bindra tweeted.
BFI secretary general Jay Kowli, who was in Dubai, said he could not comment without consulting other officials while selection committee chief Rajesh Bhandari was not available to comment when contacted by Reuters.
Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju, however, has ruled out any intervention citing the BFI's autonomy under the Olympic charter.
"I'll surely convey to Boxing Federation to take the best decision keeping in mind the best interest of the nation, sports & athletes," he tweeted on Friday.
Zareen thanked the minister and said she hoped for an end to "favouritism and nepotism".
(With inputs from Reuters)