I am fast but I do not fit: an autoethnography of a swimmer’s experiences of ‘competitive performance’ stigma in two sporting contexts
McMahon, J, McGannon, KR & Zehntner, C 2019, 'I am fast but I do not fit: an autoethnography of a swimmer’s experiences of ‘competitive performance’ stigma in two sporting contexts', Sport, Education and Society, vol. 24, no. 3, pp. 283-297.
Published version available from
Given that research outside of sport and exercise has found that stigma may cause severe consequences (e.g. depression), it is important to explore the concept in regard to its connection to socio-cultural issues in the development and persistence of stigmatisation in sporting contexts. Analytic autoethnography and Goffman’s theory of stigma was used to explore one female swimmer’s experiences of ‘enacted’ and ‘felt’ competitive performance stigma occurring in elite swimming and a masters swimming context. Competitive performance stigma has not been conceptualised or explored as a stigma type in sport research, however through the presentation and analysis of two vignettes and the use of Goffman, this is achieved. The social agents that contributed to both ‘enacted’ and ‘felt’ competitive performance stigma and the consequences/effects (e.g. withdrawal from sport, feelings of shame) for this swimmer are highlighted. Our analysis further highlights the role of particular cultural insiders (e.g. coaches, team managers and other swimmers) in the reproduction of competitive performance stigma through acts of labelling, discrimination and social isolation. These acts positioned the female swimmer as an ‘outsider’ because of her competitive performance which in turn led to her withdrawal from these two sporting contexts highlighting the implications for recipients of stigmatisation.