The Sports Ministry has included eight para-athletes under the umbrella of the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS). Four of them have already qualified for the Tokyo Paralympics.
TOPS IS A FLAGSHIP PROGRAM FOR ATHLETES
The Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) is a flagship program of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports which is an attempt to provide monetary assistance to India’s top athletes. The scheme aims to become a monetary cushion for athletes trying their hardest to earn medals for India in international competitions, especially in the Olympic games. Under the Scheme, the Department of Sports identifies athletes who have the best chance to win medals at the Olympics, namely the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, 2024 Paris Olympics and the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics. The idea, thus, is not only to help prepare athletes for the latest edition of the games but also to start raising potential talents for future events to ensure Indian chances of winning more medals in the Olympics. Paralympics are also included in the umbrella zone of the scheme.
High priority category of sports discipline has been identified to put the focus on and incentivize those sports disciplines played in the Olympics in which India has won medals in the last conducted Asian Games as well as Commonwealth Games or in which India has a good chance of winning medals in the upcoming Olympics of 2024 and 2028.
MOC CONDUCTS MEETINGS TO CHOOSE ATHLETES FOR THE SCHEME
The Mission Olympic Cell (MOC) conducts a meeting every week in order to evaluate the proposals of the athletes to join TOPS. The Committee sanctions budgets based on the athlete’s requirement and the Committee’s recommendation. The Committee is also responsible for periodically conducting review of athlete’s progress and performances. Based on the Committee’s recommendation, athletes may be included, retained or excluded from TOPS.
THE NEW ADDITIONS
Para-athletes Vinod Kumar and Ajit Kumar Panchal, both Men’s Discus Throwers and sureties for Tokyo Paralympics, have been included in the scheme. On the other hand, Men’s Shot Putter Virender Dhankar and Women’s 400 m runner Jayanti Behera have been excluded from TOPS.
From Parashooting, Siddharth Babu (men’s 50m rifle prone event) and Rubina Francis (women’s 10m air pistol) find themselves in the updated list while 10m air pistol shooter Deepnder has been excluded.
Bhavina Patel, ranked eight in the world, and the first Indian to participate at Paralympics as a para table tennis player, has also been included in the scheme.
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