SAI shortlists 258 athletes in 12 disciplines for TOPS Junior

NEW DELHI: The Sports Authority of India (SAI) on Wednesday shortlisted 258 athletes from across 12 sporting disciplines and they will be a part of the TOPS Developmental Group.

This is a step towards grooming athletes for the 2024 and 2028 Olympics and the athletes have been shortlisted by SAI's Mission Olympic Cell, including the 85 selected before the lockdown.

This was announced by Union Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports, Kiren Rijiju, during a review meeting held Wednesdayday, ANI reports.

Speaking about the decision, the Sports Minister said it takes around eight years to groom an athlete into an Olympic medal probable.

"Establishing Junior TOPS and extending support to the developmental group is a critical measure to realize India's dream of being among the Top 10 countries in the 2028 Olympics. It takes 8 years to groom an athlete into an Olympic medal probable and we have started right on time for the 2028 Olympics," Rijiju said in a statement.

The formal induction of the athletes in the development group would be undertaken after setting an effective monitoring mechanism for an athlete's progress in the long run.

Towards this, it has been decided that performance benchmarks will be established for the individual athlete for the next four years, in consultation with all stakeholders, including the athlete, coach, High-Performance Directors/ Chief National Coach of NSFs. The training support to the TOPS Developmental Group will be extended in each discipline through a group/systems approach, and a monthly Out Of Pocket Allowance of Rs 25,000 will be given to every athlete.

Of the 12 disciplines, 16 athletes have been shortlisted in athletics, 34 in archery, 27 in badminton, four in cycling, seven in table tennis, 70 in shooting, 14 in swimming, 11 in judo, 36 in boxing, 16 in weightlifting, five in rowing and 18 in wrestling.

In yet another decision taken at the review meeting, the Sports Minister announced that training of athletes at the Sports Authority of India's National Centre of Excellence (NCOE) will begin in a phased manner from October 1, 2020. This is an effort to bring athletes back to on-field training in view of the ease of restrictions in the country.

However, keeping in mind the health and safety of athletes and coaches, the COVID-19 situation in the state where the NCOE is located will be considered while finalization.

In view of the preparation for Olympics and to ensure that athletes have world-class infrastructure and equipment to train with, it has also been decided that the funds extended to all SAI NCOEs will be enhanced.

"Funds will be provided to upgrade existing infrastructure and equipment or procure new ones, as per the need of athletes. We are ready to provide all support needed to ensure that athletes in India have the best facilities at par with the world," the Sports Minister said.

To ensure a safe environment for all athletes, especially those joining the camps in their teenage years, a series of sensitization workshops are held in SAI NCOEs on various subjects. It has been decided to increase these awareness workshops including workshops on sexual harassment act with aim to make athletes aware of sexual harassment issues and about the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, and motivate them to speak up against any form of harassment.