Strength, gender, and volunteering: the lived experiences of Para-powerlifters in the Republic of Ireland

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This study provides the first meaningful examination of para-powerlifting in Ireland. A sport practiced around the world, para-powerlifting has not yet received a great deal of academic attention despite research done in related fields such as wheelchair bodybuilding (Sparkes, Brighton, and Inckle 2018). Irish para-powerlifting is distinguished by the fact that the competitors are women operating in a hyper-masculine space. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with athletes, coaches, parents and former volunteers. Interviews revealed the following: (i) athletes face material and ideological barriers to participation; (ii) entrance pathways stemmed predominantly from wheelchair basketball (iii) para-powerlifting had a beneficial crossover in athletes’ daily lives (iv) participation changed athletes’ relationships with their own bodies and (v) gender played a key role in staying in, or leaving, the sport. We conclude that while para-powerlifting is not unique in suffering from a lack of resources, efforts to maintain and increase female participation help to subvert traditional masculine tropes within this sport For policymakers, para-powerlifting simultaneously highlights the need to take seriously accessibility in Ireland while also offering an opportunity to invest in a sport with the potential to earn medals in competition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalDisability & Society
Early online date10 May 2024
Publication statusPublished online - 10 May 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Para-powerlifting
  • gender
  • Ireland
  • strength
  • fitness


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