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Developmental biographies of Olympic super-elite and elite athletes – a multidisciplinary pattern recognition analysis.

Güllich, A., Hardy, L., Kuncheva, L., Laing, S., Barlow, M., Evans, L., Rees, T., Abernethy, B., Côté,, J., Warr, C. and Wraith, L., 2019. Developmental biographies of Olympic super-elite and elite athletes – a multidisciplinary pattern recognition analysis. Journal of Expertise, 2 (1), 23-46.

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This multidisciplinary study used pattern recognition analyses to examine the developmental biographies of 16 Great British Olympic and World Champions (‘Super-Elite’) and 16 matched international athletes who had not won major medals (‘Elite’). Athlete, coach and parent interviews (260 total interview hours) combined in-depth qualitative and quantitative methods. A combination of demographics, psychosocial characteristics, coach and family relationships, practice, competition, and performance development discriminated Super-Elite from Elite athletes with > 90% accuracy. Compared to Elite athletes, Super-Elite athletes were characterized by: (1) An early critical negative life experience in close proximity to significant positive sport-related events; (2) higher relative importance of sport over other aspects of life, stronger obsessiveness/perfectionism, and sport-related ruthlessness/selfishness; (3) conjoint outcome and mastery focus, and use of counterphobic and/or ‘total preparation’ strategies to maintain/enhance performance under pressure; (4) coaches who better met their physical and psychosocial needs; (5) coming back after severe performance setbacks during adulthood, and career ‘turning points’ leading to enhanced determination to excel; (6) more pronounced diversified youth sport engagement, and prolonged extensive sport-specific practice and competitions; and (7) continued performance improvement over more years during adulthood, eventually attaining their (first) gold medal after 21 ± 6 practice years. The findings are discussed relative to potential causal interactions and theoretical implications.

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:Funded by Understanding GB medal winners
Uncontrolled Keywords:Elite; Super-Elite; Development; Biography; Psychosocial Characteristics; Pattern Recognition Analysis
Group:Bournemouth University Business School
ID Code:31820
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:19 Feb 2019 14:10
Last Modified:14 Mar 2022 14:14


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