Commentators went great lengths to avoid Elizabeth Swaney's Olympic qualification story

Erica Murray
February 20, 2018

Elizabeth Swaney, an American, turned in one of the most insane Olympic performances today in the Freestyle Skiing event in Pyeonchang for Team Hungary.

Then she just waited until a few women fell and crashed at those events, so she didn't end up dead last, and it finally happened in December.

Swaney, who has a graduate degree from Harvard, earned a spot in Hungary's Olympic delegation through both the country's quota system and 13 career world cup halfpipe contests, the Denver Post reports.

"It is an honour to compete at the Olympics and I am really excited to compete among other incredible women from across the world", Swaney said.

Swaney finished 40 points behind the skier who had the lowest score eligible to qualify for the final. She often finished within the top 30 ― and thus met the qualifying cutoff ― because there weren't that many competitors. This allowed her to qualify through the Olympic quota system, despite being unable to do any tricks. Every halfpipe skier knows Swaney from the World Cup circuit. It scored a 30.0 and placed her 22nd out of 24 skiers.

It's a fascinating, if somewhat freakish, story: There were 24 women's ski halfpipe slots available for the 2018 Olympics, but each country only can send a maximum of four skiers. "Maybe perhaps I'm the bridge to those who want to get started in the life of freestyle skiing and I want to show people that, yeah, it's possible to get involved in freestyle skiing through a variety of backgrounds".

Failing that, she aimed to do the same for Hungary, where her grandparents were born, which proved more successful.

The head judge of the freeskiing competitions in Pyeongchang, Philippe Belanger, added: "We will make the points a bit higher". "But I worked really hard for several years to achieve this".

"I hope this can be a platform to inspire others".

"If you are going to put in the time and effort to be here, then you deserve to be here as much as I do", the top-ranking athlete after qualifying, Cassie Sharpe of Canada, said in her defense.

Not everyone loves that Swaney figured out this way to make it to the Olympics without being a true Olympic-level athlete. A quick look at her Instagram reveals Hungarians aren't exactly stoked on the whole ordeal, and some are even calling for her to repay the taxpayer-funded trip to South Korea.

While she has developed some spins off Park City's water ramps, Swaney doesn't have many tricks or jumps in the 22-foot halfpipe.

If the watching fans and media were left bemused by Swaney's runs, her competitors were more supportive of her presence at the Olympics.

Organizers and judges in the event say they're mulling changes so that her strategy can't be repeated in advance of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Other reports by Insurance News

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