Elizabeth Swaney meanders through trickless freestyle ski run after qualifying through loophole

Elizabeth Swaney meanders through trickless freestyle ski run after qualifying through loophole

Javier Howell
February 20, 2018

Swaney ― a 33-year-old from Oakland, California, who qualified for Hungary's team through her grandparents' heritage ― didn't just get cold feet.

Even though Swaney finished in about the same position in each of the dozen events she competed across the globe over the last four years in the run-up to the Pyeongchang Games.

There were only 24 quota spots available in women's ski halfpipe at this year's Olympics, but injuries combined with countries not using all their spots made it so that the No. 34-ranked Swaney was able to compete in the Games.

"I want to inspire others in Hungary and the world to become involved in freestyle skiing", she said, according to the Denver Post.

Swaney, born and raised in the United States but representing Hungary, finished bottom of the standings after laying down two basic runs that left her more than 40 points behind the 12th-placed qualifier for the final.

Swaney's conservative approach to the halfpipe worked in her advantage.

Social media mostly slaughtered her (mostly people who didn't compete in the Olympics, mind you), but there were hints of inspiration that the world still appreciates someone who's OK with seizing an opportunity finish last.

"There are going to be changes to World Cup quotas and qualifying to be eligible for the Olympics", warned halfpipe judge Steele Spence.

Swaney started skiing at age 25, far later than the majority of the life-long athletes present at the Games.

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Either way, it's pretty clear that she has little to no skills as a skier.

"Yeah, *ahem* I competed in the 2018 Olympics".

"I want to show others that freestyle skiing is possible and it is never too late to get into this sport, and to help others to dream and to progress the sport in Hungary".

According to reports, she initially attempted to represent her mother's native Venezuela, before switching to Hungary, where her grandparents hail from, due to their far more favourable qualification rules.

Despite appearing to only be interested in completing her runs safely while not attempting to score points or qualify for the final, Swaney still managed to sound downbeat about her performance.

This safe technique allowed her to finish in the top 30 of most events and secured her passage through to the Olympics.

She also told the Denver Post her motivations were pure and that she hopes to inspire other skiers. Going for these paths, and then opting for another easing up to the top of the wall, showing the judge she can make it down this halfpipe clean. Swaney believes her competing has the chance to make a difference, even though it looks amusing. She was completely self-funded throughout her preparation and qualifying campaign and would not have made it if she had crashed at two or three meetings. According to the AP, Swaney has yet to score 40 in an FIS-sanctioned competition - not because she wipes out trying hard tricks, but because she doesn't try them at all.

She says she was "really disappointed" not to reach the final.