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Sacrifice: the lonely Olympic road

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The rarity of the Olympic Games makes it, for those who can compete, the ultimate sporting event. Whilst the common pressures experienced by athletes are well understood, the unique sacrifices made by elite adolescents in their pursuit of sporting excellence are less clear. Through a case study approach using analysis of conversation and reflections on practice, the paper aims to document the experiences of an elite adolescent female athlete’s journey to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games. The aim of the paper is therefore twofold. It will first raise awareness and understanding of the non-competitive sacrifices which ultimately became pressures experienced by the athlete in their pursuit of an Olympic dream. Second, the paper outlines the coping mechanisms employed to manage and overcome the issues created by the pursuit of an Olympic dream. Findings revealed organisation and personal stressors as a source of stress. However, developing clear roles and responsibilities offered a buffering effect, alleviating negative implications. In addition, burnout appeared to be a natural consequence of the intense lifestyle but structured interventions led to a positive return to sport. The parents’ journey transpired as an area warranting further investigation.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Bournemouth University, School of Tourism, Dorset HouseFern Barrow, PooleBH12 5BB,UK,

Publication date: June 1, 2012

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