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Rune Dall Jensen, Ask Vest Christiansen and Kristoffer Henriksen


As a multi-sport event that only takes place every four years and is accompanied by intense media coverage, the Olympic Games are often described by athletes as a defining moment in their careers. The objectives of the present study were: 1) to describe differences in expectations of Olympic debutants towards the Olympics and their actual experiences while they were at the Games; and 2) to describe how the athletes negotiate the balance between performing at and enjoying the experience of the Olympic Games. Further, we will discuss the athletes' stories in light of the differences between the goals and expectations of the elite sport system and those of the individual athletes. Data was collected through a qualitative interview study with a pre- and post-Olympic competition design.

Using a semi-structured interview guide, we interviewed 14 Danish Olympic debutants about their Olympic goals and expectations within a month preceding their departure for the Olympic Games and about their actual experiences within a month following their return.

Condensed narratives from two Olympic debutants represent the spectrum of the athletes' expectations and experiences: one failed in his performance but had a great experience; the other was successful and won a silver medal but was truly unhappy with her experience. The debutants emphasize balancing their desire to perform with a desire for social experiences. They also discussed the challenges posed during preparation and goal setting.

Olympic debutants are caught in a very real dilemma between the Olympics as the “most important competition of their athletic careers” and “the Olympics as the experience of a lifetime.” This dilemma is linked to a wide rift between the perspectives and goals of the sport organization and those of the athletes.

Open access

Józef Patkiewicz

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Krzysztof Sas-Nowosielski

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Dorota Groffik, Karel Frömel and Jana Pelclová

education's contribution to young people's physical activity levels. Health Education Research , 2005. 20(1), 14-23. Frömel K., Novosad J., & Svozil Z. Pohybová aktivita a sportovní zájmy mládeže. Olomouc: Univerzita Palackého. 1999. Jackson A. W., Morrow J. R., Jr., Hill D. W., & Dishman R. K. Physical activity for health and fitness: An individualized lifetime approach. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics 1999. Lubans D. R., Morgan P. J., Callister R. & Collins C. Effects of integrating pedometers

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Felicja Lwow, Małgorzata Korzeniowska, Joanna Dadacz, Ewa Hladik, Agata Łukojko and Anna Denkowska

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Krystyna Pawlas, Natalia Pawlas, Elżbieta Kmiecik-Małecka and Andrzej Małecki

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Szczepan Kościółek

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Mariann Bardocz-Bencsik and Tamas Doczi

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Matthias Alexander Zingg, Mathias Wolfrum, Christoph Alexander Rüst, Thomas Rosemann, Romuald Lepers and Beat Knechtle

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Brad W. Willis, Swithin Razu, Kelli Baggett, Amirhossein Jahandar, Aaron D. Gray, Marjorie Skubic, Seth L. Sherman, Kyle Blecha and Trent M. Guess

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