- Elizabeth Swaney became famous at the Winter Olympics as the Hungarian halfpipe skier who couldn’t do any tricks.
- Despite her pedestrian runs in the event, her story is still inspiring, as she worked countless hours just to train and compete.
- According to one report, Swaney sometimes worked 18-20 hours a day, at TV stations, startups, catering halls, Whole Foods, and more just to pay her way to the games.
- Though she’s received criticism for her method of getting to the Olympics, Swaney said she was happy to be there and proud of her accomplishments.
Elizabeth Swaney became one of the most famous halfpipe skiers in the Winter Olympics, despite being arguably one of the worst at the discipline.
Swaney is an American skier competing for Hungary who made the Olympics by gaming the system, satisfying a requirement for a number of top-30 finishes, despite not being able to do any tricks beyond a 180. She finished last in the event on Monday.
Yet like many other Olympians, Swaney’s path to the games is inspiring, even if it’s a tad different from some top athletes.According to Yahoo’s Jeff Passan, when Swaney decided she wanted to compete in the Olympics, she tried a multitude of different sports before landing on skiing. She travelled around the world to train and compete, but to make it happen required hours of sacrifice to pay her way there.
According to Passan, Swaney sometimes worked 18-20 hours a day, doing odd jobs from working in a tech startup, to teaching skiing, working in a catering hall, doing weather reports, and more. From Passan:
“She travelled to Korea and France and Spain and China, balancing a schedule that, at times, included half a dozen jobs. She worked in customer service for a startup and as a banquet server at night. ‘It was good exercise,’ she said. Swaney pulled shifts as a cashier at Whole Foods and a Sprint Store between trying to sell real estate and coach skiing. One day, while looking for another gig in Park City, she stopped at a local TV station and asked if it needed help. Soon thereafter, she was doing the occasional weather report. Swaney worked 18, sometimes 20 hours a day. International travel cost huge sums, and when little support came from online fundraisers, Swaney said she scraped together the money any way she could to self-fund most of her trips. Missing even one event could have torpedoed her chances at Pyeongchang.”
Swaney, who was a triple-major at Cal-Berkeley with a master’s from Harvard, also twice tried out as a dancer for the Utah Jazz and tried to become a cheerleader for the Oakland Raiders. She didn’t make either team.
“I just try to keep an open mind and not put limits on my life,” Swaney told Passan. “Those are two important values to me. I’m not a person that can be figured out. I think I’m still figuring myself out and always trying to push myself and go for new and exciting experiences.”
While some have criticised Swaney’s road to the Olympics, as Passan detailed, Swaney is unfazed, happy to pursue another goal and just happy to have made the games. She was even defended by France’s Marie Martinod, who won silver in the women’s halfpipe skiing.
“It’s the Olympics. Who cares where she comes from? You fight to be here. She’s not a great skier. But she made it.”
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