Meet the Olympic freeskier with no tricks

Average or aspirational, however you view her, Elizabeth Swaney made it onto Olympic soil.
Published : February 20, 2018 Updated : February 20, 2018
Elizabeth Swaney
Elizabeth Swaney at the Freestyle Skiing Ladies' Halfpipe Qualification, Feb. 19. Photo: Getty Images

Elizabeth Swaney, a California native competing for Hungary, was ranked No. 34 in the Olympic qualification standings for freestyle skiing but still made it to PyeongChang. And while you see women doing all kinds of bizarre tricks that sound like Star Trek spaceships — for instance, cork 1080 — she's seemingly average in comparison.

 

Swaney, 33, only started entering World Cup events in 2013, and she stumped viewers Sunday night during the women’s halfpipe qualifier when she gave a performance with almost no tricks.

 

Watch:

 

This first run scored Swaney a 30 and landed her in 22 place out of 24 skiers. By the end of the qualifying round — after three runs — she finished last with a best score of 31.40, which she received in her second run. This left her out of the top 12 that advanced to the final Monday night (Tuesday in PyeongChang).

 

"I didn’t qualify for the finals, so I'm really disappointed with that," Swaney said after she competed, according to Reuters. "But I worked really for several years to achieve this."

But how did Swaney make it to the Olympics?

If you’re confused about how Swaney even qualified for the Olympic Games, you’re not alone.

As NBC explained, there were 24 "quota spots" for PyeongChang in women’s ski halfpipe, and despite what you may think, these didn't automatically go to the world’s best 24 skiers. Each country can send up to four women for the event, and with some countries failing to fill up this quota and other athletes pulling out of the competition due to injury, the 34th-ranked Swaney got an invite.

She also managed to meet International Ski Federation (FIS) requirements of placing in the top 30 at a World Cup event — back in December, she finished in 13th place out of 15 competitors at the World Cup in China when most of the top skiers attended the Grand Prix, according to the Denver Post.

Swaney accumulated the minimum number of FIS points to make her PyeongChang-eligible essentially because she attended World Cup events and didn’t fall — she skied cleanly and safely and made it through. The 33-year-old was able to compete for Hungary because of her grandparents, and she’s reportedly the first Olympic freeskier to represent that country.

 

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Head Judge of PyeongChang freeskiing competitions Philippe Belanger told the Denver Post that the FIS might consider making some changes to their Olympic qualifying requirements.

As the publication put it, they might "shrink the number of open positions available for Olympic competitors in the halfpipe. That would require Olympians to harvest more than the minimum points awarded just for showing up and not falling at World Cup contests."

"I want to inspire others in Hungary and the world to become involved in freestyle skiing," Swaney said, according to the Denver Post. "Maybe perhaps I’m the bridge to those who want to get started ... and I want to show people that, yeah, it’s possible to get involved in freestyle skiing through a variety of backgrounds."

Canada’s Cassie Sharp, who won gold in the women’s ski halfpipe final, told Reuters that she didn’t have a problem with Swaney competing against her. "If you are going to put in the time and effort to be here," she said, "then you deserve to be here as much as I do."

 

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