By Gary Anderson

India is setting up a new programme aimed at bettering its haul of just six medals at London 2012 ©Getty ImagesIndia officially launched its Target Olympic Podium (TOP) scheme today which aims to increase the country's medal tally at Rio 2016 and identify potential future stars for Tokyo 2020.

The programme will include the setting up of support structures and greater education of coaches, while also putting in place specific training and mentoring programmes for talented athletes.

It also aims to identify and select a pool of talented young athletes who will be put under a centralised long-term programme with the target of delivering medal success at Tokyo 2020 and beyond.

The TOP scheme has been set-up by the Indian Government in an effort to improve on a rather paltry return of just 26 medals at the Olympics that includes nine gold, six silver and 11 bronze.

Eight of those gold have come from the men's hockey team, the last coming at Moscow in 1980, while shooter Abhinav Bindra's gold at Beijing 2008 is India's sole individual Olympic title.

Launching the scheme today, which will operate under India's National Sports Development Fund, Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said: "I understand the toil and hard work of the athletes.

"They should be provided every input to succeed and all their requirements should be taken care of so that they can focus on their performances."

Shooter Abhinav Bindra is the only Indian ever to have won an individual gold medal at an Olympic Games ©Getty ImagesShooter Abhinav Bindra is the only Indian ever to have won an individual gold medal at an Olympic Games ©Getty Images

Bindra has been drafted in as one of four athletes on the committee that will be in charge of the scheme, alongside five-time world champion and Olympic bronze medal winning boxer Mary Kom, long jumper Anju Bobby George, who won World Championship bronze in 2003, and former Indian cricket captain Rahul Dravid.

Dravid, fourth on the all-time list of run scorers in test cricket with 13,288 runs, believes the scheme will help create a greater focus on preparing athletes for success on the international stage and brings India in line with similar initiatives in other major sporting nations.

"I have been involved in an international sport for so long and I guess have an idea of what it takes for international athletes to be successful," said the 41-year-old, who retired in 2012 following a 16-year international career.

"There is no doubt that things are improving in Indian sport even outside of cricket.

"We are getting a lot more medals at the international level and at the Olympics.

"So this is a great initiative.

"It supports the top athletes and that's how it's done all over the world and an elite athlete needs lot of support to compete at that level against the best players of the world."

Indian national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand is also on the committee, which will be chaired by vice-president of the Indian Olympic Association Anurag Thakur.

Indian cricket legend Rahul Dravid has been drafted in to help improve success at the Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 Olympics ©Getty ImagesIndian cricket legend Rahul Dravid has been drafted in to help improve success at the Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 Olympics ©Getty Images

The committee will evaluate and select around 75 to 100 talented potential medal prospects with 25 to 30 being put on a "watch list" for Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020.

Particular focus will be on identifying athletes in achery, athletics, badminton, boxing, shooting and wrestling.

National Sports Federations have been invited to put forward athletes for consideration for the programme.

"We had a very successful first meeting where we looked at the names," said Thakur, who revealed India is targeting at least 10 medals at Rio 2016 and 20 medals at Tokyo 2020.

"And [we] also looked at the system, which needs to be adopted of how to train the trainers as well as implement the scheme successfully and also bring in a lot of transparency and accountability into the system so that we can increase our medal tally in the coming time.

"We are trying to rope in federations, [the] Government as well as the experts.

"To take their feedback and to work in a system which can be implemented successfully to help them (athletes and coaches) get the best of training and to make the facilities available to them, so that they can perform well at the international level.

"And there are always some gaps like coordination problems between the Ministry and Federations.

"We will try and work on that, so that in the coming time players are able to focus on their performances rather than any of the other irrelevant things."

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