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Meet the Olympic freeskier with no tricks

23 February 2018, 04:55 | Gina Pena

We've done it - we have just found the worst Olympian of all time

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Born and raised in the United States, the Harvard graduate once ran against Arnold Schwarzenegger in the race to be California governor.

Elizabeth Swaney made it to the Olympics and, for one night, captivated - and also confused - a worldwide audience.

None of that panned out for her. So what she did is travel to World Cup events and rack up enough required top-30 finishes that featured her not crashing, thus ending up ranked #34 in the world.

But if you tuned into the qualifying portion of women's halfpipe skiing in Pyeongchang this week, you got an odd and confusing surprise while watching free skier Elizabeth Swaney.

The 33-year-old, however, did not attempt a trick more complicated than a simple alley-oop when a skier rotates 180 degrees or more in the uphill direction. She was able to use very basic runs to get herself into position to qualify for the Olympics.

Each nation can send a maximum of four skiers to compete in the women's halfpipe. She had no chance of qualifying for the USA team, but was able to represent Hungary because her grandparents are from there. Given that a World Cup halfpipe event in China last December only had 15 contestants as most top pros were at Dew Tour and Copper's Grand Prix, all Swaney had to do was not fall and she was in the Olympics. But she gamed the Olympic system to compete, the Boston Globe says, and you either think that's great or that's embarrassing.

Swaney still hopes to inspire others who might be intimidated by the prospect of skiing up and down the steep walls of the half-pipe. The news stories start coming out about how each athlete has trained and sacrificed so much to make it to the Games.

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Despite finishing dead last, Swaney told Reuters it was "an honour to compete at the Olympics", and that she was "really excited to compete among other wonderful women from across the world".

"The field is not that deep in the women's pipe ... she went to every World Cup", experienced halfpipe judge Steele Spence told The Denver Post.

She was eligible for the Olympics due to the fact she essentially found a loophole that allowed her to take a spot on the Hungary team, which didn't fill all of its skiing quota spots for the 2018 winter games. Over 7 years, I have taught a few hundred people to ski while trying to give others the same opportunity I had.

France's Marie Martinod, who qualified in second, said she had no ill-feelings towards Swaney for her participation.

How? She just skied straight down the bloody thing.

While some of the other athletes reportedly have a problem with Swaney "gaming" the system, others have seen her as a hero representing the everyday American who, just once, wants to experience Olympic glory.

In a sport that's supposed to feature all sorts of death-defying flips and spins on a cylinder-like course, Swaney turned in a leisurely run down the hill, gently rocking back and forth, doing nothing more than easing up to the edges before turning the other way. "Maybe perhaps I'm the bridge to those who want to get started. 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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