Date of Award

1993

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Applied Sciences Honours

Faculty

Faculty of Science and Technology

First Advisor

Dr Lynn Embrey

Abstract

Women's elite gymnastics is characterised by subjective and aesthetic judgement and together with increasing technical requirements imposes strict body composition and body image requirements throughout the international gymnastic community. Limited research has been conducted on the younger, smaller, leaner and almost prepubescent gymnasts who now dominate the International arena. The purpose of this study is to provide an understanding of the way in which current and retired elite, female artistic gymnasts perceive their own and the "ideal" gymnast's body image, and to identify factors influencing the development of these perceptions. Nineteen subjects were drawn from one Australian women's artistic gymnastics training programme. They included: (a) current gymnasts in the sub-junior level aged eight to 10 years and junior level aged II to 14 years; (b) retired gymnasts aged 16 to 19 years who had trained and competed in the senior level of the programme, and (c) the coaches of the gymnasts in the programme. Data was collected using open-ended interviews to expose thoughts, feelings, knowledge and experiences relating to the gymnasts' perceptions of body image and the factors contributing to these perceptions. Content analysis of the interview transcripts allowed categories to emerge and identified common perceptions of the gymnasts toward their body image. The retired and junior gymnasts described varying degrees of pressure to achieve their desired body image. The gymnasts generally expressed total body satisfaction and a positive body image, however several gymnasts were dissatisfied with some aspects of their body image as to its appropriateness to elite gymnastics. The gymnasts and coaches indicated that several factors contributed to the gymnasts' perceived body image with the underlying factor being the requirement to conform to a certain skinfold level set by the national governing body. All gymnasts participating in this study, including the sub-junior gymnasts, were aware of their weight and skinfold levels. The sub-junior gymnasts presented unclear opinions of their body image, with the gymnasts' perceived body image becoming clearer with age. Responses from the junior and retired gymnasts and coaches indicated that understanding of the importance of body image in gymnastics became clearer as the gymnasts passed through adolescence and experienced the demands of elite gymnastics at the senior level.

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