US Born Hungarian Skier Delivers Viral Performance at the Olympics

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( — February 22, 2018) —

Olympic athletes are usually considered to be the very pinnacle of human skill. Apparently not all of them have the same amount of talent and raw ability, some just have perseverance.

A 33-year-old American woman named Elizabeth Swaney started freestyle skiing back in 2013 with the desire to compete in the Olympics. The journey she took to get there is rather amazing.

Freestyle skiing is a discipline where competitors perform flips and tricks in order to gain a better score from the judges. Elizabeth was competing in the female halfpipe discipline where she scored last – without performing a single trick.

Swaney initially competed for Venezuela, where her mother is from. She later switched to competing for Hungary in 2016 since that is where her grandparents originate from. Swaney was eligible to represent Hungary, becoming their first Olympic freestyle skier after qualifying through the quota system.

In order to make it to the South Korean Olympic Games she needed to finish in the top 30 at World Cup events, which she managed to do in 13 career halfpipe contests.

Elizabeth mostly attended low key events, tried to remain upright and to always record a score. She would mostly finish last or within a couple of places from last. Most of the events she attended featured less than 30 participants. Also, other skiers would fall and not get scored or would get injured, but Elizabeth persisted, she was consistent and didn’t tumble.

Her best placement was finishing 13th out of 15 in a Chinese event held in December, while at the time most high profile skiers were competing in Colorado.

Swaney managed to raise funds to attend events through online donations.

Another factor that contributed to her making the Hungarian team is that there is also a limit to how many skiers a country can have per event and reallocation rules within the Hungarian ski federation that tried to balance men’s and women’s representation.

A Hungarian team spokesman told Reuters “We, the Hungarian Olympic Committee, have to learn the lessons from this case, and we must consider rethinking our nomination procedures.”

On the other hand, Canadian skier Cassie Sharp who won women’s gold medal in the halfpipe final was supportive of Swaney’s efforts stating “If you are going to put in the time and effort to be here, then you deserve to be here as much as I do.”

Swaney maintained an optimistic outlook, “I want to inspire others in Hungary and the world to become involved in freestyle skiing.”

She has been practicing tricks in water and has stated that she has been trying “to incorporate those into the halfpipe. I’m just not comfortable landing the water tricks on snow yet.”