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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Processes contributing to optimal preparation and performance of Winter Olympic athletes : the athletes' story MacNeill, Karen C.


The purpose of this investigation was to explore the processes that contribute to optimal preparation and optimal performance of an athlete competing at the Winter Olympic Games. Using narrative methodology, 4 individual sport athletes (2 male, 2 female) who competed at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in the sports of skeleton, snowboarding, and long track speed skating (one on the all-round team and another on the sprint team) were interviewed using an in-depth, open-ended, semi-structured approach (Rubin & Rubin, 1995). The semi-structured research interview lasted approximately 2-2.5 hours in length, and participants were contacted a second time via email once the data had been analyzed to verify accurate representation of their experience. The qualitative data was analyzed using Lieblich, Tuval-Maschiach, and Zilber (1998) categorical-content narrative analysis approach, which is similar to what is commonly known as content analysis. Narrative accounts, or the athletes' Olympic stories, were also developed through this process. From the narrative analysis, seven themes emerged concerning processes contributing to optimal preparation, and six themes emerged regarding processes contributing to optimal performance. The findings reveal that for optimal preparation of an Olympian, there needs to be development and implementation of a strategic, holistic plan that incorporates processes for balance and recovery, support and mentoring, automating skill and establishing familiarity, and for reflection and monitoring to ensure training potentials are being maximized and that valuable lessons are being extracted. Furthermore, processes contributing to optimal performance at the Olympics require highly functioning self-regulation practices; a level of self-knowledge and self-acceptance that allows detachment from the outcome and freedom to perform authentically; confidence and belief in ability to achieve excellence; perspective, and acceptance and adaptation to current experiences and conditions; focus and engagement in the present moment; and the execution of performance strategies that lead to a high level of performance excellence. Implications for athletes, coaches, and practitioners are discussed, and suggestions for future research are provided.

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