Hobart(Australia) Nov 20: Australia's Olympic medal hopefuls have been promised extra cash incentives in the lead-up to next year's Beijing Games amid fears the country could slip behind Britain on the medals table.
The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) have agreed to increase current funding levels for the country's leading hopes after predictions indicated they might finish as low as seventh on the medals table.
Australia finished fourth on the medals table at Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004 but latest predictions have them slipping behind France, Germany and Britain.
AOC president John Coates said Australia were hoping to finish among the top five nations in Beijing, so had agreed to pay incentive bonuses to any competitors who had won medals at world championships this year.
Athletes who won gold medals will receive A$20,000, silver edallists would get A$13,400 and bronze medallists A$6,700. Their coaches will receive a quarter of that amount.
''The athletes need and thoroughly deserve our financial help. It is critical we increase our funding,'' Coates said in a statement released today.
''We want our athletes to properly prepare for Beijing without having to worry about paying their bills and in some cases putting food on the table for their families.'' Coates said more than 200 athletes were expected to benefit from the scheme, which follows the announcement of a similar incentive in Britain.
''Our arch rival Great Britain has made dramatic advances at our expense particularly in rowing and cycling'' Coates said.
''They are also leading us in track and field and sailing. In these four sports Great Britain beat us by 14 medals in 2007 and at the recent World Boxing Championships they won gold and two bronze'' ''Now is the time to act, the athletes need our financial help.
We need to give our athletes every opportunity in the run up to the Games.''