Master of Arts
The purpose of this study was to examine the Para sport classification experiences of Canadian high-performance athletes, and how their experiences shaped their embodied perceptions of themselves during classification. Data was collected using semi-structured interviews with five participants. Using interpretive content analysis, the data was analyzed with an embodiment framework. The findings demonstrated that both classification experiences of Para sport athletes, and how athletes constructed their understanding of classification. The results show that athletes accepted the bodily experience of the classification process in different ways; 1) as a necessary pathway to sport, or 2) as a medicalized gaze upon the disabled body. They further reflected on the power imbalances in the experiences where often their own voice was rendered silent. These moments demonstrate disruption to self in embodied experiences. Athlete experiences were shaped by their knowledge surrounding classification, their identity as an individual with disability, and lastly their identity as an athlete. Knowledge from this study offers insights into the embodied experiences and disruptions of Para sport classification. This knowledge may offer insight and shape future classification models and research.
Summary for Lay Audience
Disability sport classification is an evaluation of athletes with disabilities through physical, technical, and observational assessments. After evaluations, athletes are divided into different sport classes based on the impact the disability has on their ability to compete in sport. Although the goal of the classification system is to provide equal opportunity and fair competition for Para sport athletes, there are multiple concerns surrounding the process and accuracy of classification. Although classification is largely divorced from the actual sport experiences of athletes, it can greatly impact individual participation and embodied experiences. Additionally, this process suggests there is a power imbalance between Para sport athletes and classification personnel that non-disabled athletes do not experience. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine the classification experiences of Canadian Para sport athletes and how this experience impacted their embodied self-perception. Through in depth, multiple semi-structured interviews with five participants, I sought to understand classification experiences of athletes through the lens of embodiment, and how experiences contribute to their understanding of classification. The findings suggest that athletes experience acceptance of classification despite the disruptions to self, confronted in the process. It further highlights the power dynamic of classification where athletes voices are often rendered silent. This knowledge may offer insight and shape future classification models and research.
Kalbfleisch, Megan, "Classification Experiences of Para Sport Athletes" (2022). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 9040.
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