"Here was Elizabeth Swaney’s…interesting run down the half pipe in the women’s Freestyle Skiing #WinterOlympicspic.twitter.com/4SpsDTPPrI"- — Tomasz Mortimer (@TMortimerFtbl)
American-born skier Elizabeth Swaney competed for Hungary in the ladies’ halfpipe. She finished last. For some reason, the judges were not blown away by her performance.
The Denver Post has the answer to your obvious question: how on Earth did Swaney manage to get herself onto the hill in Pyeongchang with that level of skill?
Swaney, who said her grandparents came from Hungary, earned her Olympic berth more from attending world cup events than actually competing. Women’s pipe skiing world cups rarely see more than 30 competitors, so it’s not hard to meet the Olympic requirement for a top-30 finish. At last December’s world cup in China, when most of the world’s top skiers were competing in the Grand Prix at Copper Mountain and Dew Tour at Breckenridge, Swaney finished 13 out of 15 competitors, her best career finish.
“The field is not that deep in the women’s pipe and she went to every world cup, where there were only 24, 25, or 28 women,” said longtime FIS ski halfpipe and slopestyle judge Steele Spence. “She would compete in them consistently over the last couple years and sometimes girls would crash so she would not end up dead last. There are going to be changes to world cup quotas and qualifying to be eligible for the Olympics. Those things are in the works so technically you need to qualify up through the system.”
Swaney, who graduated from Cal-Berkeley and has a Masters from Harvard, was under no illusion that she was a medal contender. Everyone seems to be on the same page here and it’s, well, here’s a person who can’t really do this, it is what it is.
Video of Swaney on the pipe is a Rorschach test. Some see it as a joke, others as an inspiration. For her part, the skier is hoping she inspires more Hungarians to participate in the sport.
I’ll admit to not seeing the appeal of finishing dead last and becoming a punchline, but Swaney clearly doesn’t mind and isn’t hurting anyone, and apparently she has the funding to pay for all of this on her own as well.