Hyderabad: The Sports Authority of India (SAI) has announced a list of 258 athletes under the Target Olympic Podium Scheme Development Group (TOPS Juniors) on Wednesday. According to Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju, it was the beginning of India’s solid preparation for future Olympics (2024 and 2028). The list includes 11 from the State of Telangana and these 258 shortlisted athletes in 12 disciplines will be provided top class training with monthly out of pocket allowance of Rs 25,000 to every athlete.
National chief badminton coach Pullela Gopichand daughter Gayatri, Samiya Imad Farooqui, Pranav Rao Gandham (all singles players) and doubles players P Vishnuvardhan Goud were included from the badminton disciplines while Esha Singh, Zahra Muffadal Deesawala, Kynan Chenai and Dhanush Srikanth made the list from shooting discipline. Also making the cut were weightlifters T Priyadarshini and Varalakshmi Pavani Kumar, along with 2018 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist boxer from Nizamabad Mohamed Hussamuddin.
With the city of Hyderabad being the hub for badminton, it didn’t come as a surprise when four members from the State were selected for this scheme. “I was very happy to see my name in the list. This is a huge boost for me. The inclusion in the scheme will give me extra bit of motivation to work harder to achieve my dream of playing in the Olympics,” said the 17-year-old shuttler Vishnuvardhan who clinched doubles gold along with partner B Navaneeth in this year’s Khelo India Games in Guwahati.
In shooting, 15-year-old Esha Singh (10m air pistol) is already part of Indian core team for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. The triple gold medallist from junior Asian Championship in Doha last year and the silver medallist from Junior World Cup has been a force to reckon with. Joining her in the list is the talented 10m air rifle shooter Dhanush Srikanth, who won three gold medals at the junior Asian Championship. The athlete, with hearing impairment, has been training hard during the lockdown as well. “He has been working closely with Gagan Narang and was training whenever Narang was in town at the Trimulgherry facility. This inclusion in TOPS will motivate him a lot. He literally sleeps with his rifle,” said his mother Asha Srikanth.
Experienced trap shooter Kynan Chenai and skeet shooter Zahra Muffadal Deesawala. In boxing, Nizamabad boxer Hussamuddin made the list.
Meanwhile, Telangana State Sports School (TSSS) lifters T Priyadarshini and Pavani Kumar, who had impressive performances recently, were added to the list. The Priyadarshini, the lifter from Mulugu district, is currently in the Indian camp in Bengaluru. She says, “I didn’t expect this elevation. I want to work hard and win medals for India. It is very important at this point of my career,” said the 21-year-old lifter who competes in the 49kg category.
Pavani, a student of TSSS, says her silver medal win in this year’s international tournament in Uzbekistan helped her get into the list. “I think it is the first step for my future preparations. I participated in my first international tournament in Uzbekistan and won two silver medals in youth and junior categories in 45 kg. I think that performance helped me get into this list,” she said.
However, there were a few talented athletes like Jeevanji Deepthi, Agasara Nandini, paddlers Akula Sreeja and S Fidel R Snehit who performed well in the last year but were overlooked in this list.
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