The Sports Authority of India’s Mission Olympic Cell approved the names of 29 athletes, including Asian Games gold medallist shooter Saurabh Chaudhary and ace table tennis player Manika Batra, for its Target Olympics Mission Scheme (TOPS). The performance of potential athletes was reviewed in the context of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. It was also decided to extend support towards a specific developmental group for the 2024 Olympics.
The names approved in Shooting include Ravi Kumar (Men’s 10m Air Rifle), Deepak Kumar (Men’s 10m Air Rifle), Apurvi Chandela (Women’s 10m Air Rifle), Elavenil Valarivan (Women’s 10m Air Rifle), Mehuli Ghosh (Women’s 10m Air Rifle), Anjum Moudgil (Women’s 10m Air Rifle and Women’s 50m Rifle 3 Position), Sanjeev Rajput (Men’s 50m Rifle 3 Position), Abhishek Verma (Men’s 10m Air Pistol), Saurabh Chaudhary (Men’s 10m Air Pistol), Om Prakash Mitharwal (Men’s 10m Air Pistol), Manu Bhaker (Women’s 10m Air Pistol and 25m Pistol). Anish Bhanwala (Men’s 25m Rapid Fire Pistol) Rahi Sarnobat (Women’s 25m Pistol) Kynan Chenai (Men’s Trap) Lakshay Sheoran (Men’s Trap), and Angad Veer Singh Bajwa (Men’s Skeet).
Shooters like Hriday Hazarika (Men’s 10m Air Rifle), Divyansh Panwar (Men’s 10m Air Rifle), Shreya Agrawal (Women’s 10m Air Rifle), Aishwarya Pratap Tomar (Men’s 50m Rifle 3 Position), Esha Singh (Women’s 10m Air Pistol), Manisha Keer (Women’s Trap) were considered under the development group for the 2024 Olympics.
There was an intense deliberation over the inclusion of Heena Sidhu and Jitu Rai in the scheme. The committee, post the discussion, agreed to keep them on a watchlist along with a few other athletes, and it was decided to take a call on their inclusion in the scheme following the World Cup in February 2019, to be held in New Delhi.
The players selected for TOPS scheme in Tennis are Divij Sharan and Rohan Bopanna (Men’s doubles). The committee also decided that Sania Mirza could be considered for inclusion at a later date for Mixed Doubles depending on her plans to recommence training.
In table tennis, athletes selected under TOPS based on the minimum qualifying ranking criteria for the Olympics include Achanta Sharath Kamal (Men’s), Sathiyan Gnanasekaran (Men’s), Manika Batra (Women’s).
Batra’s selection is primarily down to her recent performances with Achanta Sharath Kamal in Mixed Doubles. In addition, Manav Thakkar and Archana Kamath were selected under the developmental group for the 2024 Olympics.
The athletes were chosen after an analysis, in consultation with the National Sports Federations. The review was undertaken on various parameters like Global performance trends from most recent Olympic Games, World Cups and World Championships, performances of competing international counterparts (athletes) in the last three years, high performance age of a typical Olympic medalist specific to each event, performance of Indian athletes in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and their progression chart, feedback from NSF, National Observers, High Performance Managers, Project Officers and Coaches, wherever applicable.
Along with the TOPS approval, some financial proposals were also cleared in the meeting. In Wrestling, an amount of Rs. 8.75 lakhs was sanctioned for 25 days of training for Bajrang Punia in Georgia ahead of the Asian Championships along with his coach, fitness trainer and sparring partner. This amount includes boarding and lodging and air travel, visa and medical expenses.
The Target Olympic Podium Scheme is a flagship program of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports which is a scheme to provide assistance to India’s top athletes. The selection process is ongoing and athletes from more sports will be added in the coming weeks.