India’s squash stars including Dipika Pallikal, Saurav Ghosal and Joshna Chinappa are hoping to get entry into Sports Ministry's Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) after their title-winning exploits at the World Doubles Championship in Glasgow. (More Sports News)
TOPS was formed in September 2014 to support elite athletes in Olympic sports but in the year of Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, players from non-Olympic sports like squash have been added to the scheme in the past.
TOPS cuts through the government red tape and athletes get access to funds faster for competition and training. The chosen athletes also get a monthly stipend of Rs 50,000. Ghosal, Joshna and Dipika are genuine medal contenders at CWG and Asiad this year and were part of TOPS heading into the two multi-sporting events back in 2018.
“It will only help if we are added to TOPS as it is a big year for us. It makes the exercise (to get funds) a lot faster. It surely helps and makes it easier. Don't know why we are not included yet but hope that happens soon,” world No. 17 Ghosal told PTI, a day after winning mixed doubles world title with Dipika in Glasgow.
It was a double delight for Dipika, who also won the women's doubles crown alongside Joshna. It was her first competitive event in more than 3 years, making it a fairytale comeback. The 30-year-old had given birth to twins last October.
“The TOPS scheme will go a long way in helping the squash team. TOPS always makes it easier for the athletes to secure funding for training and tournaments. I feel before CWG and Asian Games, TOPS is a must for us. All medal contenders should be part of the scheme going into the two events. It will just help us a lot if we get funded,” said Dipika.
India's top-ranked player Joshna said getting entry into TOPS will provide a big boost to her preparation for the mega-events later this year.
“I am hoping we are in TOPS soon. We were included in the scheme one and a half years before the 2018 CWG and Asian Games and it made a huge difference to our preparation,” said world No. 13.
Though government has been funding her air travel for tournaments on the professional tour, Joshna is having to spend out of her own pocket for out-of-competition training in England and Egypt.
At the most recent Mission Olympic Cell meeting earlier this week, the matter of including athletes from non-Olympic sports to TOPS was not discussed, a member told PTI. “It was not proposed or discussed in this meeting but the players could be included going forward if the proposal is made,” said the member.