By Duncan Mackay
Australia's top athletes are to receive an extra $3 million (£2 million) in funding to help them prepare for next year's Olympics in London following an announcement by Sports Minister Mark Arbib (pictured) today.
The increase takes the total funding for the Government's Direct Athlete Support scheme to $7.43 million (£4.8 million) a year and will ensure that more than 650 athletes across 30 sports will be supported.
"We think this is a fantastic result for our athletes," said Arbib.
"To put this into some sort of context, in 2005, when Direct Athlete Support first came in, it helped about 105 of our athletes, now it will support 665 athletes.
"It is something we are very proud of and will go a long way to assisting our athletes on their way to London and other World Championship events.
"We know international sport is only getting tougher, and what we are seeing when we travel overseas is other countries are investing more and more in their teams and also their training facilities and sports science.
"There is no doubt about it, world class sport is becoming more and more competitive and the Australian government wants to ensure our athletes are the best prepared."
In last year's budget, the Government announced spending of $324.8 million (£210.2 million) over four years - including $195.2 million(£126.3 million) in new funding - of which $237 million (£153 million) was for elite sports.
Athletes who are ranked in the top four in the world in their sport receive $13,000-$21,000 (£8,500-£13,500) a year, while those in the top 10 get $10,000 (£6,500) per annum.
"Obviously in the last couple of years the competition from our overseas competitors has become much more so we need to make sure that they get the same access that our other Olympians get and that's happened, so that's a good thing," said Arbib.