Coming of age: Towards best practice in women's artistic gymnastics

Author: Kerr, Roslyn; Barker-Ruchti, N.; Schubring, A.; Cervin, G.; Nunomura, M.

Publisher: Lincoln University, Lincoln, Canterbury.

Type: Book

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Lincoln University


Since the performances of famous gymnasts such as Olga Korbut and Nadia Comaneci in the 1970s, women's artistic gymnastics (WAG) has been characterised as a problematic child sport. 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. 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 a remarkable six Olympic Games including the London Olympics at age 37. To date, while there has been extensive research on the problems experienced by younger gymnasts, there has been no research examining older gymnasts and the effects of seeing 'older' bodies on the gymnastics competition floor. This research proposes to remedy this deficiency through a study of 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 three specific research objectives are. 1) to identify the factors that have contributed to gymnasts͛ prolonging their athletic careers, 2) to gain understanding as to whether the older age of some gymnasts has affected the perceptions held and practices employed by relevant stakeholders (especially coaches and officials) and 3) to identify ways through which the change in age can be employed to transform WAG so that stakeholders (gymnasts, coaches, officials) and importantly, its social image, can benefit.

Subjects: women's artistic gymnastics, elite career, longevity

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