ELIZABETH SWANEY, A 33-year-old American competing for Hungary, finished last in the ladies’ ski halfpipe event at the Winter Olympics with a less-than-thrilling run that featured exactly zero tricks.
Elizabeth Swaney: competed in Olympic qualifiers for 2 years, with the tactic of not crashing, knowing that would earn her a spot at the PyongChang games. Delivered this performance when she got there. pic.twitter.com/9jC9qtlL00— Thomas Willoughby (@Willo290592) February 20, 2018
Swaney earned a spot in Hungary’s Olympic delegation through both the country’s quota system and competing at World Cup halfpipe contests.
While she finished last or close to last in all those World Cup events, qualifying for the Olympics requires a minimum number of top-30 finishes and there are rarely 30 women competing.
“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 and slopestyle 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. There are going to be changes to World Cup quotas and qualifying to be eligible for the Olympics. Those things are in the works so technically you need to qualify up through the system.”
Swaney’s conservative approach to the halfpipe worked in her advantage. Had she crashed out of three or four World Cups, she would have not accumulated enough points to qualify for the Olympics, according to Philippe Belanger, the head judge at free-skiing competitions at Pyeongchang.
Belanger said the FIS may make it more difficult to qualify for future Olympics by decreasing the number of competitors.
“In that case you are going to need a better placement in each World Cup, to not just make it to the Games but to stay on the World Cup circuit,” Belanger said.
For now, Swaney is happy to be in South Korea representing her grandparents’ country.
“I want to inspire others in Hungary and the world to become involved in freestyle skiing,” she said.
“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.”
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