altApril 16 - India has sent eight of its most promising young runners to South Africa as part of a new scheme to develop a world-class athlete by the time of the London 2012 Olympics.

Eight athletes, who includes sprinters and middle-distance runners, aged between 17 and 25 have moved to Durban to train under South Africa's former national coach Mark Labuschagne.

Their trip is being funded by the Mittal Champion Trust (MCT), which was set-up by Indian billionaire Lakshmi Mittal and provides grants to the country's most promising sportsmen and women.

The group of seven women and one men is headed by 25-year-old Sinimole Paulose, a bronze medallist in the 1500 metres at the Asian Games in Doha three years ago and the 800m and 1500m winner in the Asian Indoor Athletics Championship at the same venue last year.

She was one of several Indian athletes who were based in Newham last year and competed in meetings in Britain.

The plan to base the group in South Africa in the build-up to London 2012 is expected to cost up to more than £100,000 a year.

The group were picked during a selection trial in Kochi from a pool of 28 athletes shortlisted in consultation with the Athletics Federation of India.

Chinchu Jose, a 400 and 800m runner, who was part of the relay team which won the gold in the 2008 Commonwealth Youth Games, said: "This is a golden opportunity for me.

"I have already been to South Africa for a 20-day training camp and I thoroughly enjoyed it."

Manisha Malhorta, the administrator for the MCT, said: "It was important that we get athletics on board because it is the showcase event of the Olympics.

"We ought to find at least one serious contender from a country of a billion.

"We've produced fine athletes with absolutely no scientific backing.

"There's no reason we won't do better with a prepared programme."

Since making its debut at the Olympics in Paris in 1900 India has only ever won two medals in athletics.

They both came in those debut Games when they claimed silver medals in the 100 and 200 metres thanks to Norman Pri

Norman_PritchardPritchard (pictured), although that is clouded in controversy.

Pritchard was born in Calcutta to British parents and it is unclear which country he competed for at the Olympics.

Research by Olympic historians has shown that Pritchard was chosen to represent Britain after competing in the Amateur Athletics Association Championship in June 1900 and the International Association of Athletics Federations records show him as having compete for the country of his parents.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC), however, still regard Pritchard as having competed for the country he was born in and his two medals are credited to India in their records.

Pritchard eventually moved to England permanently in 1905.

He later moved to the United States where he became a silent movie actor under the screen name Norman Trevor.

He acted alongside Hollywood legends like Ronald Colman in movies like Beau Geste, Clara Bow's father in Dancing Mothers and Tonight at Twelves.