Pretoria - The High Performance Centre (HPC) at the University of Pretoria will fast-track the development of athletes, thanks to a generous donor who wished to remain anonymous.
The undisclosed amount would go towards the establishment of an athletics academy, HPC chief executive Toby Sutcliffe said in Pretoria on Monday.
"Eventually there will be 100 learners in the programme, each covered for between R140 000 and a R150 000, per learner, per year," Sutcliffe said.
The selected athletes would receive full scholarships, which included coaching, sport science, psychology, nutrition, massage therapy, accommodation, meals and schooling at the TuksSport High school.
Athletics training would focus on track events, from the 100m to the 10 000m, and included hurdles and steeple chase.
The short-term goal, Sutcliffe said, was to enrol 30 athletes in the programme by October, for the 2014 year, while they hoped to increase the intake to approximately 60 athletes for 2015.
The HPC would run two talent-identification camps - one in Pretoria and one in Cape Town - for potential athletes aged between 13 and 16, who were underprivileged or required financial assistance.
"We want to continue contributing and this is an example of how we are committed to South African sports and athletics," Sutcliffe said.
"To develop a top athlete, you need a minimum of 10 000 hours or seven years of focused work."
World 400m hurdles bronze medallist LJ van Zyl said the programme would give athletics a much-needed boost given the current turmoil in the sport.
"This is a great initiative to motivate the youngsters and it gives the older athletes hope that there is investment in the sport," Van Zyl said.
"They will look for talent in the townships, which is a great idea because I don't know of initiatives like this.
"If you are not in a school with a good athletics programme and which participates in inter-High meets, how will you find your new Anaso's (Jobodwana) or Simon's (Magakwe)?"
Had he not gone to a good school which offered quality coaching, Van Zyl said he would probably not have been involved in athletics.
The development of an athletics academy was long overdue and it would be to the benefit of South Africa's future Olympic campaigns, he said.
"If you look at the Australians, the British and the Americans, they've had these type of systems in place for the last 30 years, and that is why they win the medals," he said.
"The children who will be enrolled at the HPC school will be the athletes who perform at the 2020 and 2024 Olympics.
"One day, they will look back and say 'thank you'."