“Going for gold”: print and digital media reports of performance expectations for Olympic and Paralympic athletes

Helen Heaviside, Andrew J. Manley, Faye F. Didymus, Susan Backhouse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of this study was to understand how performance expectations conveyed within print and digital media are reported at specific time points (i.e., before, during, and after a major sporting event). A total of 9,236 media reports were analyzed using inductive content analysis, each of which made reference to one of eight Great British athletes (Mage = 23.00, SD = 2.67 years) who competed at the London 2012 Olympic (n = 4) or Paralympic (n = 4) Games. The results highlight that the media regularly reported content associated with performance expectations of high-performance athletes before, during, and after the London 2012 Games. The formation of these expectations appears to be an evolving process that is subject to change dependent on athletes' previous performances. Factors that were highlighted by the media as influential in athletes meeting performance expectations included the athlete's ability to cope with pressure and the home advantage. The media's response to the athletes' performances appeared to differ according to whether or not the athlete had achieved the initial expectation. The findings also suggested that expectations were related to the athlete's support staff (e.g., coaches) as well as to the athletes. These results indicate that performance expectations of athletes are a key focus of media reports ahead of a major competition and that these expectations are likely to influence the content presented within the media reports. The results also demonstrate the importance of performance expectations to key stakeholders (e.g., coaches, sports psychologists, athletes) within high-performance sport.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-118
JournalJournal of Sports Media
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018
Externally publishedYes


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