The Sports Authority of India (SAI) has published the latest list of athletes who have been included in the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS), thereby setting the stage for the preparations ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, scheduled for next year.
The TOPS is a flagship program of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (MYAS) which aims to provide assistance as well as financial aid to India's top athletes as they prepare for their quest to win medals at international events.
Every year, the Ministry releases a new list of athletes who are eligible for the scheme, considering their recent performances and their potential of winning medals.
List of athletes under Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS)
The first part of the list consists of top athletes from sports like athletics, weightlifting, wrestling and shooting. These include some of the top medal hopefuls for India at the major international events such as Neeraj Chopra (Javelin), Hima Das (Women's 400m), Bajrang Punia (Wrestling), Vinesh Phogat (Wrestling) and Mirabai Chanu (Weightlifting).
This part of the list also features some of the top shooting prospects such as Manu Bhaker, Elavenil Valarivan, Rahi Sarnobat and Saurabh Chaudhary and is rounded off by veteran tennis player Rohan Bopanna.
The second page of the list consists of another sport that is considered a very likely medal contender at major events - badminton. It includes all the top stars such as PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal, Sai Praneeth, Kidami Srikanth, HS Prannoy and doubles specialists Satwik Sairaj Rankireddy, Chirag Shetty, Ashwini Ponappa and N. Sikki Reddy. This part of the list is finished off by India's para-athletes for sports like shooting, athletics, archery and badminton.
The last page of the list features athletes from two popular sports which have high hopes for medals - archery and boxing. Top archers like Atanu Das, Deepika Kumari and Bombayla Devi are a part of the TOPS list. Pugilists Amit Phangal, Shiva Thapa, Nikhat Zareen and Mary Kom are amongst the names selected as well. The list is completed with the inclusion of the Indian men's and women's hockey teams who will receive specialised support.
Under the TOPS program, the athletes will be able to get customised training under reputed coaches at state-of-the-art facilities. They are also provided assistance for the purchase of their sport-specific equipment, participation to international events as well as the appointment of support staff for themselves such as physical trainers, physiotherapists, sports psychologists, etc. In addition to the aforementioned benefits, the athletes are also entitled to an out-of-pocket allowance of 50,000 INR as an incentive.
The TOPS program has been quite successful in recent years, with PV Sindhu (Badminton) and Sakshi Malik (Wrestling) winning medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Out of the 70 athletes who won medals at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, 47 were supported under the TOPS program. The scheme aims to scout for talent across the nation and even funds a developmental group of athletes for potential future Olympic medals.