Hungarian skier channels inner Eddie the Eagle in basic routine
Elizabeth Swaney competed in the women’s ski halfpipe but didn’t really do any tricks
Elizabeth Swaney of Hungary in action during the Women’s Freestyle Skiing Ski Halfpipe qualification at the Bokwang Phoenix Park during the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games. Photo: Sergei Ilnitsky/EPA
Elizabeth Swaney, born and raised in the United States but representing Hungary, finished last in qualification for the women’s ski halfpipe final on Monday after laying down two of the most basic runs imaginable that left her more than 40 points behind the 12th-placed qualifier for the Winter Olympics final.
Although the 33-year-old completed both runs without falling, Swaney did not attempt a trick any more advanced than an alley-oop – when a skier rotates 180 degrees or more in the uphill direction – on her way to scores of 30.00 and 31.40. Swaney’s best score still left her 13.60 points behind 23rd-placed Dane Laila Friis-Salling, who slipped on both runs.
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.
“I didn’t qualify for the finals, so I’m really disappointed with that. But I worked really for several years to achieve this,” Swaney replied when asked about her emotions after competing at an Olympics.
Swaney says she qualified to represent Hungary through her maternal grandparents after previously competing for Venezuela in other winter sports before switching her allegiance again in 2016 to prepare for Pyeongchang.
A Harvard graduate who once ran against Arnold Schwarzenegger in the race to be California governor, Swaney only started skiing at 25 and has been driven ever since in her quest to compete at an Olympics. After raising funds through online donations to help fuel her Olympic ambitions, Swaney managed to qualify for Pyeongchang due to the sheer volume of competitions she attended.
Needing to consistently finish in the top 30 at World Cup events to make it to South Korea, Swaney has persisted with easy runs, sometimes not even attempting tricks, to make sure she does not fall and always records a score. Her best finish came at Secret Garden in China when she finished 13th out of 15 athletes while a majority of her Olympic rivals were competing in the US Grand Prix at Copper Mountain or on the Dew Tour.
“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,” FIS halfpipe judge Steele Spence told the Denver Post. “She would compete in them consistently over the last couple years and sometimes girls would crash so she would not end up dead last.
If the watching fans and media were left bemused by Swaney’s runs, her competitors were more supportive of her presence at the Olympics. “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 qualified in first place with the two highest-scoring runs.
Swaney’s performances may have disgruntled some but she was unconcerned by any negativity towards her intentions. “[People doubting me] actually motivates me to improve more,” she added. “I worked really hard to come here and there are only 24 women in the world that could be in this final. So I use this as motivation.” – Reuters