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This study was designed to better understand the positive and negative aspects of being a national champion athlete, to uncover difficulties encountered in defending a championship title, and to solicit recommendations for achieving and maintaining national champion status. Seventeen U.S. national champion figure skaters who held titles between 1985 and 1990 participated in in-depth interviews. A number of positive and negative experiences were identified. Difficulties encountered in defending a championship were associated with increased expectations and responsibilities, a shift in motivational orientation from chasing to being chased where arousal was increased and interpreted negatively, and athletic injuries and the stress related to those injuries. Recommendations focused on such things as not being afraid to grow and take risks, filtering feedback and advice, not falling into the trap of feeling one has to be perfect, and seeking and utilizing social support.
Daniel Gould and Laura M. Finch are with the Department of Exercise and Sport Science at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC 27412-5001. Susan A. Jackson is with the Department of Physical Education and Recreation at Victoria University of Technology, Melbourne, Victoria, 3000 Australia.