When fourteen-year-old Nadia Comaneci won gold at the 1976 Olympic Games, her youthful appearance inspired concerns about the hard training of young gymnasts. These concerns frequently centered around the coach as a figure of authority with the power to potentially exploit young girls. This paper both confirms and questions this assumption through using an Actor Network Theory (ANT) perspective. It is argued that what has been missing from previous accounts of sports training and competition is the role that nonhumans play. It is shown how existing Foucauldian work examining gymnastics can be extended through demonstrating the Latourian notion that power is enacted through nonhumans. It is further suggested that the inclusion of nonhumans such as video cameras into the gymnastics network can potentially generate different power arrangements from the traditional authoritarian coach/athlete relationship. Latour’s concepts of mediators and intermediaries are used to show how nonhumans can have agency and affect gymnastics performance, demonstrating that power is shared among both human and nonhuman actants.
Kerr is a Lecturer in Sociology, Sport and Recreation, Faculty of Environment, Society and Design, Lincoln University, Lincoln, Christchurch, New Zealand.