Tonic and phasic indices of electrodermal and cardiovascular activity were obtained from competitive female gymnasts differing in defensive repressiveness and trait anxiety. A typical orienting response paradigm was employed with subjects being required for one session containing two conditions differing in manipulated anxiety/embarrassment level. The relative size of the anxiety and repression effects are discussed in relation to the utility of the repression concept in this context. Although there was a range of physiological effects associated with group differences in repression these were smaller than those associated with differences in trait anxiety. Nevertheless in elite sport there is a great emphasis on psychological parameters that might serve to enhance performance even if such enhancements are relatively slight. Such effects as noted here may not be inconsequential for those individuals who characteristically use repression as a way of dealing with unpleasant negative experiences. © 1994, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. All rights reserved.