Is Elizabeth Swaney the worst Olympian ever, or just one of the craftiest?
American-born halfpipe skier represented Hungary in Pyeongchang using loopholes to qualify
By CBC Sports
Elizabeth Marian Swaney made her Olympic dream come true in Pyeongchang, South Korea, with a perfectly mediocre freestyle skiing halfpipe performance on Sunday.
The 33-year-old finished 24th and last in women's qualification, but stayed on her skis through both runs while barely attempting a trick to earn scores of 30.00 and 31.40.
Swaney, who was born and raised in the United States but represented Hungary, didn't appear to be interested in doing anything other than completing her runs without incident. She finished 13.60 points behind 23rd-placed Dana Laila Friis-Salling, who slipped on both runs.
She qualified to represent Hungary through her maternal grandparents and has also competed for Venezuela. In 2010 at the age of 25, Swaney switched from skeleton to skiing.
For Swaney, it was quantity over quality on her path to Olympic qualification. She booked her ticket by consistently finishing in the top 30 at World Cup events with pedestrian runs that ensured she didn't fall and always recorded a score.
"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," Swaney told Reuters. "I hope this can be a platform to inspire others."
Her best-ever finish came at Secret Garden in China with a 13th-place result in a 15-athlete field, but she did this while most of the Olympic contenders were competing elsewhere. Avoiding going against the sport's top athletes seemed to be part of her strategy.
Qualification for the Olympics requires achieving a certain number of top-30 World Cup finishes, and Swaney achieved 13 of them just by turning up and competing at events where there were less than 30 athletes competing.
The Harvard grad funded her pursuit through online donations.
She's received a mix of love and hate online. Many point out her use of loopholes to reach Pyeongchang, while others simply respect her hustle.
The <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Olympics?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Olympics</a> are just a giant farce these days. When athletes like <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ElizabethSwaney?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ElizabethSwaney</a> go “country shopping” it’s become a debacle. She was born and raised in the U.S., is an American citizen, and competed for Venezuela before competing for Hungary in 2018. <a href="https://twitter.com/iocmedia?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@iocmedia</a>—@Stubborn_Truths
Worst. Olympian. Ever 😂<br>Fair play to her though for the hustle and completely playing the system 🤣 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/loophole?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#loophole</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ElizabethSwaney?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ElizabethSwaney</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WinterOlympics2018?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WinterOlympics2018</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Halfpipe?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Halfpipe</a> <a href="https://t.co/6rJxO75bTb">pic.twitter.com/6rJxO75bTb</a>—@mattjcorner
Despite garnering the wrong kind of attention for her runs, her Olympic competitors didn't seem to take offence to her presence.
"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," said Canada's Cassie Sharpe, who went on to win gold in the event.
If nothing else, Swaney put on an Olympic-level lesson in how to work smarter, not harder.