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THE PRODUCTION OF THE ADULT GYMNAST: TOWARDS BEST PRACTICE IN WOMEN’S ARTISTIC GYMNASTICS

Conference contribution
Authors Roslyn Kerr
Natalie Barker-Ruchti
Myrian Nunomura
Astrid Schubring
Published in AIESEP World Congress, 10-13 February 2014, Auckland, New Zealand
Publication year 2014
Published at Department of Food and Nutrition, and Sport Science
Language en
Subject categories Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology), Pedagogical Work, Other Social Sciences, Sports research, Sport and Fitness Sciences

Abstract

Since the performances of famous gymnasts such as Olga Korbut and Nadia Comaneci in the 1970s, women's artistic gymnastics has been characterised as a problematic child sport (Barker-Ruchti, 2009; Kerr, 2006). Numerous studies have identified medical and psychological issues associated with competing at a high level at a young age, such as stunted growth, bone deformity and distorted body image (see for example, Caine et. al., 2001; Daly, Bass & Finch, 2001; Dresler et. al., 1997; Lindholm, Hagenfeldt & Hagmann, 1995; Mellercowicz, et. al., 2000; Tofler et. al., 1996). However, recently there have been several gymnasts appearing at the highest international level of considerably older age, the most famous being Oksana Chusovitina who has competed at six Olympic Games including London at age 37. To date, there has been no research examining older gymnasts and the effects of seeing 'older' bodies on the gymnastics competition floor. This presentation will discuss findings from an interview study examining the experiences of older gymnasts and the factors that have led to the prolonging of their careers, together with an examination of how the existence of older gymnasts affects the perception of the sport. The findings will be analysed through identifying childhood and adulthood as social constructions. For example, in the Western world, childhood is positioned as a place for ‘play’ and adulthood for ‘paid work’ neither of which fit easily with gymnastics training which usually entails long hours of unpaid work for both children and adults. Gymnastics remains an amateur sport, with no professional leagues that allow gymnasts to be paid for their work and only limited prize money. This presentation will shed light on how participants’ understandings of what constitutes childhood and adulthood have influenced their choices to participate in gymnastics into adulthood. References Barker-Ruchti, N. (2009). Ballerinas and pixies: A genealogy of the changing gymnastics body. International Journal of the History of Sport, 26, 43-61. Caine, D., Lewis, R., O’Connor, P., Howe, W., & Bass, S. (2001). Does gymnastics training inhibit growth of females? Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, 11, 260-270. Daly, R.M., Bass, S.L. & Finch, C.F. (2001). Balancing the risk of injury to gymnasts: how effective are the counter measures? British Journal of Sports Medicine, 35, 8-19. Dresler, C. M., Forbes, K., O'Connor, P. J., Lewis, R. D., Glueck, M. A., Tofler, I. R., et al. (1997). Physical and emotional problems of elite female gymnasts. New England Journal of Medicine, 336, 140 - 142. Kerr, R. (2006). The Impact of Nadia Comaneci on the sport of Women’s Artistic Gymnastics, Sporting Traditions, 23(1) November 2006, pp. 87 – 102. Lindholm, C., Hagenfeldt, K., & Hagmann, U. (1995). A nutrition study in juvenile elite gymnasts. Acta Paediatrica, 84, 273-277. Mellerowicz, H., Matussek, S., Leier, T., & Asamoah, V. (2000). Sportverletzungen und Sportschäden im Kindes- und Jugendalter - eine Übersicht. Deutsche Zeitschrift für Sportmedizin, 51(3), 78-84.

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