Much debate over Elizabeth Swaney’s inspirational road to Olympic embarrassment

SHARE Much debate over Elizabeth Swaney’s inspirational road to Olympic embarrassment

Elizabeth Swaney’s pedestrian run in the halfpipe left most viewers shaking their heads. | AP

If you tuned into the Winter Olympics the other day to see incredible feats performed by supernatural athletes, you may have been disappointed.

Elizabeth Swaney’s uninspiring run on the freestyle half-pipe would fail to make the cut on both the “thrill of victory” and “agony of defeat” video montage.

But for the official Olympic number on her coat, Swaney’s leisurely swooshing looked more like morning lessons on the bunny hill at Beaver Creek than a qualifying run at the world’s quadrennial event.

Her pedestrian attempt left most uninitiated viewers wondering how Swaney ever made it to the Olympics. Still, for others her humiliating experience is all that counts.

So just how did the 33-year-old American with a graduate degree from Harvard make the Hungary team?

From The Denver Post:

Swaney, who said her grandparents came from Hungary, earned her Olympic berth more from attending World Cup events than actually competing. Women’s pipe skiing World Cups rarely see more than 30 competitors, so it’s not hard to meet the Olympic requirement for a top-30 finish. At last December’s World Cup in China, when most of the world’s top skiers were competing in the Grand Prix at Copper Mountain and Dew Tour at Breckenridge, Swaney finished 13 out of 15 competitors, her best career finish.

Like most things these days, social media was split over Swaney’s being able to participate. Many think she merely gamed the system:

Others found it more within the Olympic spirit that she was able to live out her dream:

Paul Newberry of The Associated Press says there is no room in the Olympics for Swaney or anyone else of her ilk.

Newberry writes:

She had no business competing in the Olympics. The same can be said for all those skiers representing snow-challenged countries such as the Philippines, Eritrea and Pakistan. Plucky underdogs like Eddie the Eagle, a bespectacled daredevil flinging himself off the ski jump, and Eric the Eel, flailing desperately to stay above water at the Olympic pool, aren’t that charming anymore. The games can do without them.

As for Swaney, she seems undaunted by the criticism and hopes that her unflattering performance becomes a motivational point for others in the sport.

“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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