London ahead, funds to continue for India athletes

New Delhi: Following the overwhelming success of Indian athletes at the Commonwealth Games, the sports ministry wants to continue pumping in more money and strategising for their sustained progress till the 2012 London Olympics.

A whopping Rs 678 crore ($150 million) was allocated by the central government for training athletes for the Commonwealth Games (CWG) and Asian Games, and the results have started showing. India bagged a record 101 medals in the Delhi CWG, finishing second in the medals tally - their best performance in the 80-year Games history.

As part of the two-and-a-half-year-old project, the athletes were given the best of training at home, and 75 days of training-cum-competition abroad in one year. They had the services of foreign coaches, besides nutritional diet and other allowances.

With the Commonwealth Games over, the question uppermost in sportspersons' minds is: will they continue to get the benefits?

"The planning for CWG and the upcoming Asian Games has made our job easier till the London Olympics. We are in the process of finalising strategy and allocation of grants for all sports for the next two years," a sports ministry official said.

Asked whether the athletes will be funded for the training and trips overseas, he said: "Even a lesser known sport like rugby got the chance to train overseas. The foreign experience was certainly a factor in the overall performance of the athletes. The strategy will continue but we are yet to finalise the schedule."

Officials in SAI, the nodal agency for the National Sports Federations (NSF), said the CWG performance was a terrific result for a country trying to establish itself as a sporting nation.

"We will make sure our athletes get whatever they want at least till the London Olympics. And we will try to maintain the intensity after that as well. With such results we are on our way to becoming a sporting nation," Pravir Krishna, an SAI official who was a CWG special officer, said.

If that happens, it will come as a major confidence boost for Indian athletes who are keen to prove their mettle in the tougher events like the Asian Games and Olympics.

"We went to China four times this year for training. I never saw the kind of support coming from the government before. It will be great if they keep on helping us," said Sharath Kamal, who won the table tennis doubles gold at the CWG.

"In fact, in table tennis it was our best performance ever. We ended up winning five medals, bettering our Melbourne tally of three," he said.

Like in table tennis, the performance graph in other disciplines like shooting and wrestling also went up. Archery contributed significantly to India's medal haul - eight medals including three gold.

Ace archer and Games' double bronze medallist Jayanta Talukdar, who is bracing up for a tougher competition at the Asian Games, said an Olympics gold is very much a possibility if camps are organised like the way they did for the Delhi CWG.

"A two-year-long rigorous camp got us the results in the Games. We got the equipment on time. Now, we have the resources until the Games in China. Hopefully, we will get fresh bows and arrows for training for the London Olympics," Jayanta told said..

"We will get the results in bigger events too if we continue to get sustained support," he added.

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