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South African Journal for Research in Sport, Physical Education and Recreation

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The experience of fear in high-risk sport

Mark E Miesel, Justus R Potgieter

Abstract


The purpose of this study was to investigate the experience of fear as described by athletes who participate in physically dangerous sports. A phenomenological research design was employed. The data were obtained from extensive interviews with twelve participants representing six countries: South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, The Czech Republic, The United States and Canada. Participants were high level competitors in gymnastics, white-water kayaking, ski racing and rock climbing. An additional quantitative measure, Zuckerman's Sensation Seeking Scale, was used to complement the interview findings. The results were presented in the delineation of 26 meaning cluster groups and seven themes. High-risk sport participants indicated frequent experiences with "peak" and "ultimate" athletic moments including physiological changes during all stages of participation. The athletes used a variety of mental strategies to cope with perceived danger that included an increase in focus on technical aspects, imagery and denial.
Keywords: High-risk sport, Fear, High-level competitors, Phenomenology

South African Journal for Research in Sport, Physical Education and Recreation Vol.25(2) 2003: 49-56



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