Weighing the Body: Olympic Weightlifters' Negotiations of Weight Class & Body Ideals

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Despite the demanding physical requirements of the sports in which they compete, the bodily practices of competitive athletes are informed and constrained by the athletic and dominant discourses that they are surrounded by. Gendered discourses of the ideal body may induce female athletes to avoid development of “masculine” muscle (Krane et al., 2004); dominant healthist discourses that demonize body fat can contribute to physiological impairments among athletes participating in lean-sport cultures (Ackerman et al., 2020). Through feminist poststructuralist analysis of semi-structured, in-depth interviews with eight male and eight female competitive Olympic Weightlifters, this thesis examines how male and female strength athletes negotiate multiple discourses about acceptable and “athletically-functional” bodies when choosing their weight classes. This study also observes how athletes manipulate (and are manipulated by) their bodies in order to accommodate and resist dominant discourses, offering a demonstration of the social and biological construction of the athletic body.