If you’ve been sitting on your couch for the past week and a half eating chips while yelling at athletes for making minimal mistakes in a sport you could never imagine even attempting, Elizabeth Swaney is the athlete for you. She managed to take her mediocre skiing skills all the way to the Olympics without people noticing until she started competing that she’s just okay in her sport.
Swaney competes in women’s skiing half-pipe — where athletes ski down the snowy “pipe” and do tricks in the air all the way along — without actually doing any tricks. Yes, at the Olympics. The runs she pulls off require some level of skill since she manages to finish the course and never fall, but she’s not actually doing any of the moves that get you real points. Her most complex maneuver is an alley-oop which consists of rotating 180 degrees while in the air.
#ElizabethSwaney (US) gamed the system, used her grandparents to join the Hungarian team. No tricks. 30/100. Last place.
Which is only one place better than me! @kevinandbean pic.twitter.com/3zrgre63P3
— Kevin Ryder (@thekevinryder) February 19, 2018
For comparison, the gold medal winner of that event was Canadian Cassie Sharpe whose golden moment looked a little more complex.
— CBC Olympics (@CBCOlympics) February 20, 2018
So how did Swaney make it to PyeongChang? She used what many are calling a “loophole” in the way Olympic qualifying works for certain sports to gain her spot in the competition. Basically, you choose a sport that your country doesn’t put up very many athletes for, gain enough points at various international competitions to qualify and voila: you’re an Olympian.
The loophole; I do know it. See below. Do research and inform yourself pic.twitter.com/VhXm34bgN5
— Brian Lepro (@Brianlepro) February 19, 2018
Since the United States has more than enough skiers competing for the coveted honour of representing the country in half-pipe, American Swaney chose to compete for Hungary where her grandparents have citizenship (that’s actually pretty common). She then spent two years traveling to as many international skiing competitions as she could, gaining points slowly by completing the course without falling, and she was able to qualify.
Swaney has become a sort of everyman Olympian to the internet who has adopted her as their new icon for shooting for the stars even if you have no conceivable way of getting there.
— my back aches, my skirt too tight, my booty shakes (@poniesandsodies) February 19, 2018
This is so fucking funny. She’s so utterly normal at it; just so *unremarkable.* That she’s not “funny” bad makes it 1000% funnier. Cackling. https://t.co/ZucbQr3GaF
— rob delaney (@robdelaney) February 19, 2018
Get Liz Swaney her own Lifetime movie. Better yet, get her a dedicated cable channel. pic.twitter.com/dyqQadh48G
— Ryan Mac (@RMac18) February 19, 2018
@ElizabethSwaney your half pipe today was so sweet it made my day ♥️
— rachel (@rachellauren66) February 19, 2018
— Ben Holcomb (@BenjaminHolcomb) February 19, 2018
She’s not the first to qualify that way, but she may be the last. After Swaney’s lackluster performance went viral, the Hungarian Olympic Committee announced that they are going to review their selection process. The run may be funny to the internet, but we can assume the Hungarians are a little embarrassed at one of their competitors not taking her event seriously and finishing dead last.
There are quite a few people who are upset at Swaney “gaming the system.” She received more than a few unkind words online.
@ElizabethSwaney You’re a poser who worked the system, found a loophole & just barely didn’t cheat. Shame on you for dishonoring the spirit of the games. You don’t deserve to be called and Olympian for any country.
— Wendy Pons (@wdpons) February 19, 2018
“That’s right kids, you too can get into the Olympics just like Elizabeth Swaney.
1. Have enough money to travel the world competing in skiing events for 2 years.
2. Make sure the events have less than 30 competitors.
3. Place in the Top 30.”
— #VoteThemOut 202-224-3121 🇺🇸 (@KsKM3) February 19, 2018
Hungary must be so proud…
American skier Elizabeth Swaney, who represents Hungary in the Olympics, performed an UNIMAGINABLY MEDIOCRE Halfpipe run just so you didn’t have to do it yourself — although you (or perhaps a monkey) would have performed loads better than she did…. pic.twitter.com/jX31Lh7Wvs
— Lily Whyte-Lilith (@LilywhiteLilyth) February 19, 2018
Swaney doesn’t seem to mind the criticism though. She’s clearly enjoying hanging out in PyeongChang and cheering on her fellow Olympians. And to all those people who say “I could have done that”: you didn’t. She did. This is what Olympic dreams are made of.