Worst Skier at Olympics: US Woman Games the System to Sneak Into Games

Worst Skier at Olympics: US Woman Games the System to Sneak Into Games
AP Photo/ Gregory Bull World04:31 21.02.2018Get short URL



American skier Elizabeth Swaney, who represented Hungary in the women’s free ski halfpipe at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, is now under fire for having allegedly scammed her way into the Games.

Swaney, 33, left the audience speechless with her less-than-mediocre performance on Monday when she demonstrated skills that don’t come close to matching what people expect to see from a world-class Olympic athlete at Pyeongchang.

Halfpipe skiing is considered to be a dangerous sport in which competitors normally perform a series of spectacular tricks while going down the pipe and are evaluated by judges, but Swaney’s run featured zero tricks. She did nothing — no triple corks, no tail grabs — as she lazily rode up the halfpipe walls and back down again.

After a video of her performance went viral, the international community started to wonder how the woman managed to get into the Olympics in the first place.

​The answer is simple: there are loopholes in the system allowing pretty much anyone to qualify for a spot at the Games — except for Russian athletes, of course, many of whom couldn’t participate in the major sports event even after being fully acquitted by The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Swaney, who has a graduate degree from Harvard and once ran against Arnold Schwarzenegger in the race to be governor of California, only picked up skiing in her mid 20s. She even attempted to raise money in support of her sports career through crowdfunding, but without much success.

Knowing that there was no chance for her to make it into the US team, Swaney used her grandparents’ heritage to claim Hungarian lineage and became the first person to represent Hungary in skiing. She reportedly earned a spot in Hungary’s Olympic delegation by technically fitting a requirement of minimum number of top 30 finishes.

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Swaney traveled the world to participate in international championships where there were rarely 30 entrants.

“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.”

​If Swaney had crashed at three or four of those world cups, she would have not accumulated enough points to qualify for the Olympics, according to Philippe Belanger, the head judge for freeskiing competitions at Pyeongchang. But it’s hard to fall off your skis when you perform no tricks.

It seems, however, that Swaney herself is proud of her achievement.

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“I want to inspire others in Hungary and the world to become involved in freestyle skiing,” she said, as cited by Independent. “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.”

The newly-minted Olympic athlete’s ingenuity received mixed responses, but mostly people have taken to social media to condemn her as an unfair contestant, saying that Swaney’s case discredits the International Olympic Committee and the Olympic movement in general.

​#ElizabethSwaney has got to be one of the biggest *nondopingrelated* frauds in Winter Olympic History. Cheated and paid her way to the Games. You’re not competing if you rock up aiming to finish last — Stop celebrating her #bbcolympics #NBColympics #Olympics

​I think I would have more issues with Elizabeth Swaney competing if not for the fact that the IOC itself is one of the most corrupt “Boys club“ organizations second only to FIFA, and she played by their rules to get in.

​Because of Swaney, athletes that were better qualified and ranked higher were not able to compete. People critical of Swaney’s attendance say regulations have to be changed to close the loophole that helped her get in.