Exploring the lived experience of Olympic gold medal champions
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] The purpose of this study was to explore the lived experiences of three Olympic gold medal-winning athletes in the sport of Track and Field. Specifically, the study sought to identify the lived experiences, the critical moments, and the intentional responses that influenced each gold medal winning performance. The study uses the qualitative approach of narrative design. Many athletes dreamed and prepared to make the Olympic team and to win an Olympic medal. Only a very few succeeded in standing on the Olympic medal podium. For these athletes, their process of preparation and performance delivery worked. The interest of this study was to explore what were the key factors, beyond talent, physical ability and technical training that impacted their achieving success and winning the medal at the Olympic Games. A cross case analysis was employed to illuminate the findings. When each of the three athletes walked out of the tunnel, onto the Olympic stage, we saw how in that moment they took control of their Olympic moment. This is the challenge for every Olympic athlete. There is evidence from the narratives that suggest, "Controlling the Olympic Moment" was the ultimate critical moment, and it did not start when they entered the Olympic stadium. The athletes shared intimate understandings, found within the crevices of the lived experiences at the Olympic Games. Either the athlete controls the environment or the environment controls the athlete. The athletes were prepared, they were experienced in making autonomous decisions, they were intrinsically motivated and determined, they recognized the critical challenge in the moment, and they took control. Additionally evidence was identified in the athletes' reported experiences that are consistent with, and reflect key elements of Self-Determination Theory and the Flourish: PERMA model. This research suggests that "Controlling the Olympic Moment" uncovers an entirely different configuration and context for examining Olympic athletes' experiences, as well as other high performing/intense environments for athletes.
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