New Delhi: 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 offered ace 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 she has 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 her consent.
"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 group of India's most talented sportspersons by a special committee comprising outstanding persons after rigorous research and will 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 and her 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 equipment and 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.
A sportsperson can choose coach and support staff, though this is subject to approval from the ministry in consultation with the NSF, Sports Authority of India and coaches. The support staff can accompany the athlete on foreign training and competitions.
The athlete will have to give details of preparation (training and competition) up to 2016 Olympics, which will be scrutinised by NSDF secretariat and a final training and competition programme will be finalised for the athlete after consultation with the NSF, coaches, experts and SAI.
Benchmarks for progress in performance will be set for each athlete till Olympics 2016. Continuation of assistance under the TOP Scheme is subject to meeting the said benchmarks by the athlete within stipulated timeline.
He or she will wear/display the logo of the TOP Scheme and the TOP Scheme's partners and sponsors on playing kit/uniforms, with due prominence and in such locations as designated by the NSDF, while participating in any events or training/practice and agree to attend and appear at a designated number of public events which may organised by the NSDF or the TOP Scheme's partners and sponsors though it is subject to training and competition schedule.
The athlete will have to undergo medical tests and other evaluations form time to time, refrain from undergoing any medical treatment, except in the case of emergency, without the consent of NSDF or the NSF, refrain from making any negative or damaging statements regarding the NSDF, the TOP Scheme or any of the TOP Scheme's partners, refrain from excessive and inappropriate behaviour (like consumption of tobacco, alcohol and drugs) which could reflect negatively on you and the TOP Scheme and/or inhibit your performance.
There are though some tricky clauses in the Grant Agreement to be signed by the athlete. The athlete can continue personal commercial endorsements entered before agreeing to be part of the scheme, provided funding is not received for same activities as TOP Scheme.
However, he or she must disclose the existence of such arrangements to the NSDF prior to execution of the agreement to be part of the TOP Scheme.
But, any further commercial arrangements with third parties entered after the agreement with the sports ministry will need prior written approval of the NSDF where the proposed sponsor is a competitor of any of the TOP Scheme's partners.