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“Who in England cares about the champion spear tosser?” Field Events and the British Athletic Psyche before World War One.

Day, D and Harris, L (2018) “Who in England cares about the champion spear tosser?” Field Events and the British Athletic Psyche before World War One. Journal of Sport History, 45 (2). pp. 165-182. ISSN 0094-1700

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Abstract

The British Olympic Association was formed by men whose class attitudes were reflected in their adherence to traditional notions of amateurism. An emphasis on elegance and a suspicion of professional coaches were central to their ethos and resulted in the middle-class amateur focusing on events that accommodated the symmetrical body while avoiding events that demanded a more proletarian, highly trained functional body. The result was the almost complete absence of amateurs from the field events arena to the long-term detriment of the competitiveness of British international teams, although between the 1908 London Games and the outbreak of War in 1914 efforts were made to redress the balance between track and field. Using press reports and organizational archives, this paper uncovers some of these initiatives and concludes that their failure to make a difference is confirmation of how deeply amateur values had been embedded within the British athletic system.

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