Hungarian (sort-of) skier Elizabeth Swaney is now infamous around the world, after her big turn at the Olympics involved her just sort of sliding down the ski halfpipe and getting a cumulative three feet or so of air. She finished dead last of the 24 competitors by a comfortable margin, but that doesn’t really matter, since she’s not in fact an Olympic-level athlete and simply scamming her way into the Games represented a success of its own. While it’s clear that her entry into the Olympics says more about the flaws in the qualification process than her skill as an athlete, she didn’t cheat or break the law to get her spot.
Swaney didn’t always compete for Hungary, nor did she initially set out to be a skier. After serving as coxswain for the Cal men’s crew team while a student at Berkeley, her first serious foray into winter sports came when she tried to compete for Venezuela in the skeleton. Here’s a run from her time as a slider.
Swaney filed the paperwork to run for governor of California when she was 19, once tried out to be an Oakland Raiders cheerleader, and studied real estate at MIT and Harvard, where she was an assistant coach for the track team. If there’s a through line, it’s sports. Swaney loves sports of all kinds with a fervor shared by few others. Consider the following highlight reel.
Swaney trained for her Olympic debut in Park City, where she also practiced on ice skates, rollerblades, and the trampoline. When she wasn’t doing that, she was volunteering at PGA Tour events and catching Cal games. Swaney apparently self-funded her Olympic journey, though her efforts to crowdfund the money seem to have netted her $0. She hasn’t talked a whole lot about her time in Pyeongchang, though she did tell Boston.com, “I didn’t qualify for finals so I’m really disappointed,” adding, “I still want to inspire people to get involved with athletics or a new sport or a new challenge at any age in life.”
Who knows, maybe she’ll inspire more under-qualified Olympic hopefuls to game the system and sneak into the Olympics too. She will have truly earned her chocolate medal.