The article describes how exceptional athletes become sports stars. Unlike most sociological papers, its target is the locally situated sporting subculture, only partly professionalised and medialised, examined in the example of a top-level swimming club in Brno. It draws on Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of symbolic capital to present a case study of a specific sporting sub-culture based on qualitative methods, most notably in-depth interviews, unobtrusive observation, and document analysis. The sports star is here envisioned as the product of an accumulation of the sporting capital of members of a sporting club, the basic factors of which are the various types of capital the swimmers possess (social, cultural, physical, or material) and, especially, the degree to which the particular types of capital are accepted and acknowledged by other members of the swimming club. Two types of swimming star are identified. The authentic star is a successful athlete who respects the values and norms of the top-level club. By contrast, the inauthentic star ignores some of the values or disrupts the relative autonomy of the swimming sport by becoming overly involved with the mass media. The swimmers’ relationship with the media emerges as crucial; how much they object to or benefit from the influence of the media defines the authenticity of the swimmers’ status in the swimming club.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.