Avinash Sable, who broke the national record in the recent Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, Neeraj Chopra and sprinter Hima Das were among those retained in the core group.
Tokyo Olympics-bound javelin thrower Shivpal Singh and race walker KT Irfan, along with sprinter Dutee Chand, were among the eight new track and field athletes who were inducted into India’s Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) core group.
Under the aegis of the Indian sports ministry, the TOPS is a flagship programme dedicated towards identifying potential Olympic medal winners in the country and helping their training by providing financial and infrastructural aid.
The new list for track and field athletes was drawn up at the 50th Mission Olympic Cell (MOC) meeting on November 26. The MOC is the dedicated body established to identify and assist TOPS athletes.
Besides Shivpal Singh, KT Irfan and Dutee Chand, new inductees into the TOPS core track and field athletes’ list include Annu Rani (women’s javelin throw), Arokia Rajiv (men’s 400m and 4x400m relay), Noah Nirmal Tom (men’s 400m and 4x400m relay), Alex Anthony (men’s 400m and 4x400m relay) and MR Poovamma (women’s 400m and 4x400m relay).
India earned a Tokyo Olympics quota in the mixed 4x400m relay courtesy their third-place finish at the 2019 World Championships, which explains the focus on 4x400m relay athletes.
KT Irfan, meanwhile, became the first Indian athlete to qualify for the 2020 Olympics during the Asian Race Walking Championships in Japan.
“The decision to include athletes in the TOPS core group was based on their performance progression and their qualification or high probability of qualification for the Tokyo Olympics scheduled next year,” the Sports Authority of India (SAI) said.
Besides the eight new entrants, nine of the athletes in the previous core TOPS group, including Olympic-bound javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, shot-putter Tajinder Pal Singh Toor and star sprinter Hima Das, were retained.
Sreeshankar Murali (men’s long jump), Jinson Johnson (men’s 800m and 1500m), Ayyaswamy Dharun (men’s 400m hurdles), Muhammed Anas (men’s 400m) and Seema Punia (women’s discus throw) were the other five who were retained.
Only men’s triple jumper Arpinder Singh was dropped from the last list.
Seven more promising athletes were also added to the TOPS developmental group – dedicated towards the future stars from the country.
High jump national record holder Tejaswin Shankar was among the list alongside Harsh Kumar (men’s 400m and 4x400m relay), Veeramani Revathi (women’s 400m and 4x400m relay), Vithya R (women’s 400m and 4x400m relay), Shaili Singh (women’s long jump), Sandra Babu (women’s triple jump) and Harshita Sehrawat (women’s hammer throw).