Retirement experiences of elite swimmers in relation to athletic identity, social support and the physical self
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Objectives: Exploration of the retirement experiences of elite swimmers with a focus on the relationships between athletic identity, social support and the physical self. Design: Retrospective semi-structured qualitative interviews. Method: 9 elite swimmers (3 males and 6 females) who had previously competed at Olympic Games, World Championships, European Championships and/or Commonwealth Games were interviewed. Semi-structured interviews were tape-recorded and transcribed verbatim; participants‟ anonymity has been safeguarded throughout the study. Results: The development of an elite swimmer‟s identity was influenced by the physical self, with loss of identity being triggered by weight gain during retirement. Establishing an athletic identity and sport based support network facilitated the development of elite swimmers; however, a lack of support to maintain athletic identity or cope with its loss caused retirement distress. Finally, receiving dietary information from their social support network developed participant‟s performance and facilitated a smooth retirement. Conclusion: Athletic identity, social support and the physical self were linked during retirement. The dedication required to excel in elite sport was reflected in the participant‟s narrow identity that focused on the athletic portion of the self; this identity impacted upon relationships within the participants‟ support networks and the focus on their physical capacities. Consequently, athletic identity, the physical self and social support may lead to retirement distress as participant‟s developed a new identity and support network to combat the loss of physical capacities experienced during this challenging time.
- Masters Degrees (Sport) 
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