ELIZABETH Swaney has never been afraid to give things a go.

As a 19-year-old she literally took on the Terminator, running against Arnold Schwarzenegger in the race to be California governor.

But even that failed attempt to enter politics wasn't as audacious as what she just pulled off at the Winter Olympics.

Swaney, who has a design degree from Harvard and works in Silicon Valley, pulled off a ploy that would make Steven Bradbury proud by even qualifying for PyeongChang.

The 33-year-old American began wholeheartedly pursuing her dream of competing at an Olympics in 2013 but knew she'd never make it on to her own country's team.

According to reports, she initially attempted to represent her mother's native Venezuela, before switching to Hungary, where her grandparents hail from, because of their far more favourable qualification rules.

Once she had the go ahead from the Hungarian ski federation, Swaney just needed to finish inside the top 30 at a few World Cup events. So she designed her calendar around appearing at events that coincided with more prestigious competitions she knew the best skiers in the world would attend.

And then kept her fingers crossed the lesser-lights she'd go up against would fall over.

"The field is not that deep in the women's pipe and she went to every World Cup, where there were only 24, 25, or 28 women," longtime half-pipe 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."

Which led to this run down the half-pipe in South Korea, which Deadspin described as being "so thoroughly average that it's an inspiration of sorts".

 

In an Eddie the Eagle-type performance, Swaney barely managed to get any air on her turns and only performed the most basic of tricks. Her best score, 31.4, left her in last place and 13.6 points behind the next-worse finisher, Denmark's Laila Friis-Salling, who slipped on both her runs.

Despite appearing to only be interested in completing her runs safely while not attempting to score points or qualify for the final, Swaney still managed to sound downbeat about her performance.

"I didn't qualify for the finals, so I'm really disappointed with that. But I worked really for several years to achieve this," Swaney replied when asked about her emotions after competing at an Olympics.

"I have been focusing on my Olympic experience but also on the half-pipe here and trying to go higher each time and getting more spins in."

But perhaps the most entertaining aspect of the entire facade was how the commentators in the video above attempted to make it sound like this was a standard run.

 

 

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.

"It is an honour to compete at the Olympics and I am really excited to compete among other amazing women from across the world," Swaney said.

"I want to show others that freestyle skiing is possible and it is never too late to get into this sport, and to help others to dream and to progress the sport in Hungary.

"I hope this can be a platform to inspire others."

Swaney goes big ... for her. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Swaney goes big ... for her. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

If the watching fans and media were left bemused by Swaney's runs, her competitors were more supportive of her presence at the Olympics.

"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," said Canada's Cassie Sharpe, who qualified in first place with the two highest-scoring runs.

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

"I am a super open-minded person," she said. "This is why the Olympics are so special."

Swaney's performances may have disgruntled some, but she was unconcerned by any negativity about her intentions.

"[People doubting me] actually motivates me to improve more," she added. "I worked really hard to come here and there are only 24 women in the world that could be in this final. So I use this as motivation."

 

Swaney goes big ... for her. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Swaney goes big ... for her. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

- with New York Post


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