The Body Perception and Coming of Age in the Women’s Artistic Gymnastics

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 18:15
Oral Presentation
Ivana ALEIXO, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Brazil
Myrian NUNOMURA, University of São Paulo, Brazil
Women’s artistic gymnastics (WAG) is a demanding sport, both from a technical and aesthetic point of view. To achieve success, there is early involvement and intensive training since childhood. Authors have related this reality and the difficulties of gymnasts when they perceive themselves as "older". We questioned gymnasts on the representations of the body from their own perception, in order to understand the body models prevalent in this sport. The aim of the study was to gain insight into the body's perception of the age and its relationship with the coach, the training, and the family throughout the sports career. Currently, there are several studies on how to maintain the ideal physical conditioning, the coach-athlete relationship, the age-related beliefs and performance. The present study was generated by the project "Coming of age: Towards best practice in artistic gymnastics" (Kerr, Barker-Ruchti, Schubring, Cervin, Nunomura, 2013), which aim is to explore the experiences of older gymnasts and the factors associated to the prolonged sporting career. Seven Portuguese gymnasts with international experience were interviewed. The semi-structured interview focused on the oral history approach, and the thematic analysis was used for data treatment. It was identified that the main influences are the perception of matured age; the passage through moments that combine individual factors with adjustment requirements and their own characteristics; social relations with colleagues and coach. The experience of being "older" gymnasts helps to understand how particular contexts happen and thus develop a new stage of the career. The identification of body perception with the onset of age could encourage alternative ways of coaching WAG and improve the meanings that competitive sport could assume for older athletes and thus promote the prolongation of the sports career.