Cognitive Characteristics of Expert, Middle of the Pack, and Back of the Pack Ultra-Endurance Triathletes
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Objectives The purpose of this study was to examine cognitive differences between expert and non-expert UE triathletes. Design Twenty-one UE triathletes were stratified according to finishing times into three groups; experts (<9.5 h), middle of the pack (∼12.5 h), and back of the pack triathletes (>14.0 h). Methods Cognition was examined using a think-aloud protocol with the aid of a video montage of segments from an UE triathlon representing periods of high decision-making or cognition. Inductive qualitative analyses supported the classification of athlete cognitions as passive, active, or proactive. Results Expert triathletes reported a greater emphasis on thoughts related to their performance, while middle of the pack and back of the pack triathletes reported a greater number of passive thoughts. Furthermore, experts were more proactive in their approach to performance situations than mid- and back-pack triathletes. Conclusions Expert UE triathletes are cognitively different from non-experts, although future research is needed to determine the role these differences play in promoting expert performance.