Elizabeth Swaney: 5 Things About US Skier Competing On Hungary's Olympic Team

Doug Mendoza
February 20, 2018

Swaney, 33, who competed for her grandparents' native Hungary delivered one of the most mediocre performances in Winter Olympic history as commentators struggled to find words for what they witnessed. As a result, Philippe Belanger, the head judge in Pyeonchang, is contemplating the possibility of shrinking the number of qualifying spots for the event in future years.

At 19, Elizabeth Swaney ran against Arnold Schwarzenegger to be governor of California.

When you tune into the Olympics, you usually expect to catch a glimpse of some of the most elite athletes that the world has to offer, even if it's in some pretty freakish sports that you didn't even know existed. But also restrictions on how many skiers an individual country could send.

In her short career, Swaney has competed in the US, Italy, France, South Korea, Canada and New Zealand.

So Swaney juggled her job as a software engineer recruiter for Thumbtack with some honest-to-goodness hard training and some strategic thinking.

It seems that Swaney cleverly used the rules, and a lack of competition, to reach the Games.

And that's how we got that mockery of a run. People watching Olympic-level halfpipe skiing might struggle to grasp the complexity of trickery and it's easy for even good skiers to be intimidated by the thought of spinning through several backflips high above the deck.

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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. 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.

There's a surreal nature to the broadcaster's completely straight commentary on Swaney's run.

Her fellow competitors have mixed feelings about Swaney's presence in the Olympics. Some said an amateur in the mix might provide perspective.

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.

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

With what was easily the most original performance of the Games so far, she divided social media into two camps, describing her either as the "best" or the "worst" Olympian of all time.

The result was Swaney, a thoroughly average skier by layman's standards and an terrible skier by professional standards, competing alongside the world's best in Pyeongchang - and becoming a polarizing figure in the process. "I want to show others that freestyle skiing is possible and it is never too late to get into this sport".

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