Elite endurance athletes of today use specialized, scientific training methods and the increasing role of science in sports is undeniable. This is especially true for cross-country skiing. But how and when did scientists and educated coaches gain power? Scientification of training methods in cross-country skiing accelerated in the 1950s and cross-country skiing was an early adopter, even if not all skiers were (Svensson 2013). Still, the experiential, local knowledge of skiers remain an important ingredient in modern day training. How have these different knowledge traditions merged? How has it changed training in theory and practice?
This paper analyzes how physiologists and skiers interacted in the transformation of training methods. Material from archives, interviews and previous research will be studied using theories of bio-power (Foucault 1998), sportification (Yttergren 2006, Guttmann 1978) and STS (Knorr-Cetina 1999, Latour 1987) Skiers from Sweden and Norway will be used as the main examples.
Results and discussion
Training methods were developed through meetings between practitioners and theoreticians. Scientification of training was driven by hardening international competition. The creation of “rational” training methods was a co-production of knowledge between different knowledge traditions, where skiers represented a traditional, local and tacit knowledge (Polanyi 1958), while scientists represented scientific, written knowledge with universal claims.
In the co-production of knowledge about training, bodies were at the core. Ultimately it was a matter of control over bodies. Should they be subjected to bio-power (Foucault 1998, 2001) or should they remain under the control of the practitioner? The relationship between skier and scientist resembled that of patient and doctor. Interaction between the expert on the local level (skier /patient) and the universal level (physiologist/doctor) resulted in a knowledge-base that affected both practice and theory. Rational training, in the end, was not built only on science but also on the individual and collective experiences of elite skiers.
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Polanyi, M. (1958), Personal Knowledge. Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
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Yttergren, L. (1996), Täflan är lifvet: idrottens organisering och sportifiering i Stockholm 1860-1898. Stockholm : Stockholmia.
Cross-country skiing, training, bio-power, rationalization, technologies of sportification
European College of Sport Science (ECSS) Congress 2015, ‘Sustainable Sport’, Malmö.
The presentation was awarded with ECSS Young Investigators Award (YIA) 2015.