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"I try and be as athletic like, forget the other side of me": constructions of elite female wheelchair athletes' identities
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Education.
2004 (English)In: Kvinder, Køn og Forskning, ISSN 0907-6182, no 2-3, 22-33 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper focuses upon the meaning of being a female wheelchair racer at elite level. The paper is based on one-to-one semi-structured interviews with five female wheelchair racers, who all competed in the Paralympic Games 2000. This paper highlights the complexity and in some respects contradictive aspects of the ways in which elite female wheelchair athletes construct their identities. In this study the Paralympic Games are applied as a backdrop through which the athletes and their experiences are contemplated. Overall the research suggests that the interviewees cannot be contemplated as passive objects unable to affect their own lives. Rather they seem to be well aware of the logic of the discursive game and thereby manifest their independency through action and resistance. Thus they counteract people’s misperceptions by asserting their abilities as wheelchair racers.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2004. no 2-3, 22-33 p.
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-3025OAI: diva2:141455
Available from: 2008-03-17 Created: 2008-03-17Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Bending mainstream definitions of sport, gender and ability: Representations of wheelchair racers
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Bending mainstream definitions of sport, gender and ability: Representations of wheelchair racers
2008 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Inspired by feminist post-structural thinking and with a discourse analytic approach, this study’s main theme is gendered identity, disability and sport. It consists of four separate, but interrelated, empirical studies and focuses on two research questions. Firstly, how do female and male wheelchair racers construct and perform their identities? Secondly, how are female and male wheelchair racers represented in Swedish sports media? To answer the research questions, semi-structured interviews with wheelchair racers, and a critical analysis of sports media texts from the Paralympics in Sydney, 2000 have been conducted. In this dissertation the composition of unwritten regulations produced by the media texts, that shaped the practice of wheelchair athletes was conceptualized as the discourse of able-ism. Findings indicate that the sports media texts constructed the subject of ‘disabled sportsman/sportswoman’, which indirectly reproduced the conception of a copy and not an original. The exclusion was, however, concealed and neutralized through the regulation and differentiation that the discourse of able-ism legitimated. Although sports media still seems to reinforce negative stereotypes of disabled athletes, the wheelchair racers themselves are challenging the gender, sport and disability discourses and establishing new ways of being physically powerful and excellent in and outside the sports arena. In fact, when the athletes got the opportunity to make their voices heard in media, they re-dressed the twisted picture of wheelchair racing as passive rehabilitation training into elite sport. Consequently, it seems that wheelchair racing and its high status in disability sports empowers both male and female racers which increases their possibility to be represented as ‘real’ sportsmen and sportwomen. Finally, although, the athletes have shown that wheelchair racing has a given place in modern sport, ‘being able’ as an athlete and being a gendered individual are still strongly connected to the appearance and performance of the un-impaired body.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Pedagogik, 2008. 69 p.
able-ism, disability, discourse, gender, identity, representation, sports media, Paralympics, wheelchair racing
National Category
Sport and Fitness Sciences
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-1586 (URN)978-91-7264-497 (ISBN)
Public defence
2008-04-11, Hörsal E, Humanisthuset, Umeå Universitet, Umeå, 13:00 (English)
Available from: 2008-03-17 Created: 2008-03-17 Last updated: 2010-02-19Bibliographically approved

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