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Table 1 Supportive quotations for each theme and sub-theme, along with the participant (P)

From: The podium illusion: a phenomenological study of the influence of social support on well-being and performance in elite para swimmers

Theme Sub-theme Quote P
Coach-athlete relationship ‘Knowing the athlete’ ‘I can tell him [coach] absolutely everything’ 5
‘he [coach] was very good during the period where I wasn’t swimming, in supporting me’ 6
‘sometimes I don’t even know there’s something bothering me until he tells me’ 2
‘Boost of confidence’ ‘praises you when sessions have gone well … gives you that extra boost of confidence’ 5
‘they [coaches] reassure me that I’ve put all the work in that I possibly could have done and then that makes me feel better’ 2
Fount of knowledge ‘with my pacing for my [swimming event] [asking the coach] “Do you think, if I go out a bit slower, it might help?” 4
‘Coaches have helped me structure race plans, um; what should be in my race plan, what I should be thinking about during the race. That really helps with the execution of a good race’ 6
‘I found out that, um, my catch was lagging for a few years, so obviously I’d just got a bit sloppy with it, um, and then we’ve [coach and participant] been working really hard on keeping my elbow high’ 2
Team bond ‘Team spirit’ ‘you’re getting up at 5:00 in the morning and you see each other at 5:00 in the morning looking horrendous, and you’ve all gotta get in the pool together’ 2
‘just having that kind of camaraderie and that team spirit just, kind of helps motivate you’ 4
‘when you’re going into a pool and your team mates have banter, like, it’s a laugh, like, it’s so much fun, they’re pushing you, you’re racing against each other, the competition, like, it makes a fun environment, like, that two hour session actually goes really fast’ 5
Experiential similarities ‘I’ve had a text from her [teammate] at least once a day, just saying, “Hi, what are you up to? What are you going to do?” 7
‘team-mates as well, who may have had different experiences um, along their journey, which, which can help you in a situation and, kind of, be relatable to you. I think that that can be quite useful’ 4
‘You can probably just stick it to the back of your mind, you know if you ever come across that experience, you’ll know how to kind of deal with it’ 2
Tangible aid Sports medicine ‘all helps with the recovery – physically and mentally’ 4
‘she’s [soft tissue therapist] the one that I just like rant to, she just listens’ 1
‘[physiotherapy is] just to kind of keep myself relatively loose during a heavy training period just so I don’t get too tight and trying to prevent injuries then kind of heal them once I get it’ 3
‘the more coaches are aware of what’s proper pre-sport, post-sport, and uh, how to kind of prevent their swimmers from getting injured, the better’ 8
Financial support ‘I’m really grateful for the funding because if I didn’t have it I wouldn’t be able to swim’ 2
‘you know like what times you’re gonna have to swim to get such and such level of funding’ 6
‘I wouldn’t be able to live off what I get from British swimming, there’s no way’ 7
British para-swimming ‘A happy swimmer is a fast swimmer’ ‘when I’m training well, I’m happy; but also, when I’m happy, I’m training well, if that makes sense’ 3
‘if you’re happy where you are and if you’ve got a good programme, obviously it’s got a good track record and good coach, um, then there’s, there’s no need to change it 4
‘I’d never move [to the NPC] because I really like that I have here’ 2
  ‘Best athlete that you can be’ ‘the facilities in Manchester were amazing, the coaching was amazing, like we had everything we needed […] you basically couldn’t ask for a better training environment’ 6
‘it’d be useful if they [support staff] were a little bit closer’ 3
‘there’s quite a lot of support there if you want it, but you have to, you have to get it. You have to chase 7
The Podium Illusion Performance support ‘The S&C (strength and conditioning) work that you do translates to the swimming work that you do’ 6
‘They [psychologists] gave me a lot of kind of advice, a lot of methods to help me um, when I was having a bit of a kind of plateau year’ 3
‘When I got back into the pool, I was then starting a different phase of training that I hadn’t done before, and what we [participant, coach and physiologist] were doing was we were monitoring how effective the gym programme had been’ 8
‘she’s [nutritionist] been really helpful with me trying to expand my diet and like come up with better meal plans’ 1
‘the biomechanics team; they’re involved in a lot of data analysis when we’re at major meets. All the swimmers will be videoed and a race report will be created post-swim um so we can go back and um, evaluate that’ 6
‘he’s [HPL] kind of like a bridge between us [athlete and coach] and the rest of British Swimming’ 8
Personal support ‘My mum and my friends keep me in the right head space to train, especially when I’m going through like injuries’ 1
‘I think it’s nice having a performance lifestyle advisor because they can really help you put something in place, they can help you find a bit of a career, so you never feel like, you never feel lost’ 3
‘He [agent] knows when I can do stuff, when I can’t due to competitions. So, again, it frees me of one less job to do, so I can actually go out there and, uh, do my training and perform, so I’m not having to think about replying to all these emails’ 5