The government has rolled out its ambitious TOP (Target Olympic Podium) Scheme, under which 2016 Olympics medal prospects will be funded for their specialised world class training and top-level competition, and offeredace discus thrower Seema Punia a budget of Rs 75 lakhs till the Rio Games next year.
Incheon Asian Games gold medallist Punia is among the first athletes to have been given an offer under the scheme after being selected by a committee, whose members include the likes of Rahul Dravid, Abhinav Bindra and Pullela Gopichand. When contacted, Punia refused to confirm or deny that shehas been picked for the scheme but Sports Ministry sources told PTI that she has been officially sent a letter of offer regarding this a few days back and asked to confirm herconsent.
"I am not in a position to speak on this issue," Punia simply said. The money will be sanctioned to her from the National Sports Development Fund (NSDF). Seema will have to sign a Grant Agreement within seven days and sent it to the ministry.
"Seema has been chosen as a TOP athlete, an elite groupof India's most talented sportspersons by a special committee comprising outstanding persons after rigorous research andwill be supported by the Sports Ministry in terms of training and preparation for 2016 Rio Olympic Games," the source said.
"She will be funded for special, customised training programme prepared in consultation with the NSF/coach and independent experts till 2016 Olympics," he added. Seema is expected to give her consent to the offer andher funding can start from next month itself. The TOP Scheme covers athletes in the disciplines of sailing, archery, athletics, boxing, wrestling, shooting and badminton. This funding is in addition to the Annual Calendar for Training and Competition (ACTC) programme coverage and will run till August 31 next year.
Any athlete selected for the scheme will be given customised training under a renowned coach in India or abroad, participation in top level competitions, purchase of equipmentand supplements, access to world class medical experts and sports scientists.
The athlete will be given exclusive, specially designed TOP Scheme clothing and kitting. While in India, they will be given lumpsum monthly payment or Rs 30,000 for food supplements and other miscellaneous expenses.