By Nitin Srivastava

New Delhi [India], April 8 (ANI): Sports Authority of India and Mission Olympic Cell (MOC) have taken a decision to include athletes, who have qualified for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, in Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS).

The decision to add athletes who weren't a part of TOPS was taken during the 56th MOC meeting. The meeting was attended by Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and SAI officials and representatives from the other federations.

"Government is putting a lot of effort to provide all kinds of help and facilities to athletes that is why this decision has been taken," a source in the know of developments told ANI.

"This will certainly motivate the athletes. Some big names who are roped in TOPS are Fouaad Mirza, his name would be officially added in coming days but approved on principle," the source added.

Bhavani Devi, who scripted history by becoming the first fencer from India to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics has been included and star player Sania Mirza made a come back after 2017. Also, Kamalpreet Kaur wasn't in TOPS earlier and some other athletes have also been included.

Sania was earlier selected for TOPS during the fourth meeting of the TOPS Elite Athletes Identification Committee that was held in 2017 at the SAI headquarters. But soon after the selection, she had withdrawn from TOPS.

She is currently ranked 157th in the world but has a protected ranking of nine (doubles ranking) based on which she is likely to go to the Tokyo Olympics, slated to begin in July this year.

According to WTA, special ranking is a ranking freeze assigned to a player who is out of competition for a minimum period of six months due to a medical condition. When a player is out of competition for more than 52 weeks, they get a ranking freeze for 3 years based on their last tournament played. Within this 3-year period, the player can enter 12 tournaments using their protected ranking (1 Grand Slam/Olympics & 1 WTA 1000 Mandatory Event).

Sania was out of competition for more than 52 weeks that is from October 2017 and returned to competition last year in January 2020 when she made a comeback by winning her first doubles tournament in nearly 2 years.

She has nine tournaments remaining including the Tokyo Olympics out of 12 to enter through the protected ranking of World No. 9. Hence, she will gain direct acceptance into the doubles draw of 32 and can pick anyone as a partner who is ranked inside the top 300 from India as of June 7. (ANI)

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