Situational factors as well as individual differences are assumed to play an important role in perceptions of stress. One factor that may affect an elite athlete's perception of stress may be his or her perceived motivational climate. To examine the relative importance of dispositional and situational factors on the perceptions of distress (i.e. negative stress), we assessed goal orientations, perception of motivational climate and sources of distress among Norwegian participants at the 1994 Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer. Perception of a performance climate was associated with cognitive sources of distress, the coach, and team aspects as a source of distress. Furthermore, a performance climate was a significant predictor of high total distress. The athletes with lower perceptions of ability perceived the coach to be more a source of distress than athletes with a high perception of ability. A perception of a mastery climate was negatively associated with the coach as a source of distress. These findings indicate that, to reduce the perception of distress, the coach should focus on creating a mastery climate for elite athletes.