India has been in an ecstatic mood after an unprecedentedly brilliant performance of our players in the recently concluded Olympics and Paralympics. We have already bettered our previous Olympics tall, on the other hand, we have got more medals than all the previous Paralympics put together.
As far as the Olympics are concerned, the biggest achievement was Neeraj’s Chopra, who won the first Gold medal in Athletics. Whereas Paralympians have something unthinkable by winning 19 medals. The outstanding performance of Indian athletes has not only made the country proud but they have also removed a psychological mental block. This exceptional performance has given the courage to citizens that every dream is achievable.
India has sent the largest contingent so far in both Olympics and Paralympics games this time, and that has reflected in the medal tally as well. People are praising the facilities and training given to our athletes, at the same time people are recognizing the efforts of Central Government and several state governments for the welfare of the athelets.
People are in awe of PM Modi and appreciating the way he is taking a personal interest in sports and motivated athletes, which certainly has inspired and pushed our players to give their best. However, the actual reason for this phenomenal performance is the transformation in the approach of the government while extending the support to athletes for international competitions.
Modi Govt’s Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) has garnered rave reviews and exceptionally positive feedback from not only the Players but from Coaches and other professionals associated with sports. In this article, we will try to explain to you about this program, which has certainly brought the revolution in the Indian sports arena, and it is going to enhance the level of sports in the future.
What is Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS)?
India is known for its abysmal track record in the Olympics and other Athletic games. In order to make some improvements and increase the tally, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports did start a flagship program called Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) in 2014 to fast track India’s push for Olympic medals.
The primary objective of this program was to put medal winners on the podium, not just hand out boarding cards to athletes participating in the Olympics. The program saw a massive ramp-up in 2018 when it spent Rs 8.2 crore on the para-athletes and provided athlete-specific assistance such as coaching camp, foreign training, equipment, and a stipend of Rs50,000 per month for each player.
TOPS scheme also categorized several sports as ‘High-priority Sports’ among the 13 games that the TOPS scheme initially aided. This category is comprised of Boxing, Wrestling, Archery, Badminton, and Hockey. Over and above that, the Government started taking interest in the games and this newfound attention and athlete-specific aid did churn out phenomenal results, and the recent games are evidence of that.
How Government is helping Athletes
The government’s objective was to encourage and help the athletes to perform better at the International level, and they did it by investing at the right time at the right place.
If we talk about the Golden boy Neeraj Chopra, he was trained in Europe for more than 3 years under the guidance of a renowned Javelin trainer. The Para Javelin thrower Sumit Antil, who won the gold medal in also got training in Finland to enhance his game. He also got a chance to compete in France, Italy, Tunisia in the last three years.
Apart from that, he was provided with a Rs 7 lakh prosthetic blade, equipment, and other biomechanics support from the Sports Authority of India and NGO Go Sports Foundation.
Avani Lekhara, who won a gold and a Bronze medal in this Paralympics, for due support from the Sports Ministry, as they funded the installation of a computerized digital target at Avani’s home, apart from taking care of the heavy costs of her air rifle, ammunition, and accessories.
It was TOPS, which helped Silver medallist Bhavina Patel to get an updated “practice partner” robot that helped her during the lockdown last year. The results were there to see, as she won a Silver medal by beating World No 3 Zhang Miao, a game thoroughly dominated by the Chinese.
Installation of more Sporting facilities
The government understood the fundamental issues and challenges faced by the Athletes. We have a lack of sporting facilities and stadiums in our nation. Earlier athletes had to book time slots to play, but now they have got a dedicated professional academy with all facilities and sports science equipment. The government has installed sporting facilities and professional training centers in several cities.
Para-badminton head coach Gaurav Khanna concurred with it and said that Lucknow’s facility helped him to train the badminton athletes, and the result is out there for everyone. Now athletes can schedule their practice sessions, and these centers are well equipped with other facilities like a gym, steam bath, ice bath, hydrotherapy, or everything a professional athlete needs.
Facilities like the SAI campus in Gandhinagar and the table tennis center in Indore too are equipped for para-athletes with coaching methods that have changed over the years. The opening of more avenues and increased incentives have seen participation spike. There were around 700 para-athletics at the nationals in 2015, and 1,800 in 2019, which shows how more athletes are inducted into the TOPS program and trained hard for the next level.
TOPS has also collaborated with several private entities and initiatives like Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ) and GoSports to identify the talent and then nurture them in such a way that they can compete at the international level. The government also kept a close check on the other issues faced by athletes and ironed out them to mitigate any discrepancy and misunderstanding.
While working with para-athletes since 2008, the GoSports Foundation was affiliated with 11 of the 19 para-athletes for Rio 2016, and continued its work ahead of the Tokyo Games, when the Sports Ministry got in touch. This time, another private initiative, Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ), got involved in supporting para-athletes — 10 of whom picked up medals. This shows how well these organizations are training these athletes and taking care of their requirements.
Change in the mindset
Earlier, people used to have negative perceptions about the Paralympics and Para athletes. People used to say that these poor or disabled people cant do much in their life. However, this has been changed now as Para Athletes have made some splendid achievements and they have brought more medals than Olympians. And there’s more we can still achieve.”
Apart from providing the same facilities, the government has started seeing para-athletes’ achievements the same way as normal athletes in terms of cash awards and jobs. This has changed the entire perception and boost up the confidence in the athletes and in general public as well.
The future is quite bright
Well, it is quite evident that efforts by the Central government and private entities under the flagship TOPS, India showed marvelous results in the international games. Tokyo has set the giant momentum in order, and we can expect more achievements and medals in the 2024 Olympics and other forthcoming games.