Freestyle skiing: Heaven is a halfpipe for unconventional Swaney

by Steven Clarke February 20, 2018, 19:50
Freestyle skiing: Heaven is a halfpipe for unconventional Swaney

Qualification for the Olympics involves achieving a certain number of top-30 World Cup finishes, and Swaney ensured she achieved 13 of them by simply turning up and competing at events where there were fewer than 30 athletes competing.

"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", said ski halfpipe and slopestyle judge Steele Spence told the Denver Post.

Even though Swaney finished in about the same position in each of the dozen events she competed across the globe over the last four years in the run-up to the Pyeongchang Games.

Knowing that she likely would never have a chance at making the Winter Games while competing for a spot on the very-competitive United States team, Swaney instead chose to ski for Venezuela (her mother's home country) before switching over to represent Hungary, where her grandparents were born, in 2015. On Monday, she finished more than 40 points shy of qualifying for the finals and 60 points shy of the event's leader after failing to attempt any tricks beyond a simple 180-degree turn.

Even though she's not in their league, Swaney's fellow Olympic competitors think Swaney earned her place at the Games just like everyone else.

Spence speculates that rules will be changed to require more than just the rampant accumulation of minimum scores to qualify for the 2022, but until then, we've been given a classic Olympic story. Cross-country skier German Madrazo finished his race nearly a half hour after champion Dario Cologna claimed his gold medal.

Granted she is a decent enough skier, but in comparison to some of her competitors, she was pretty poor.

Skiing for Hungary gave Swaney a better chance at meeting the International Ski Federation's requirements and qualifying for Olympic participation.

"I still want to inspire people to get involved with athletics or a new sport or a new challenge at any age in life", she said.

Failing that, she aimed to do the same for Hungary, where her grandparents were born, which proved more successful.

After watching Swaney's run, many took to social media to blast the skier and poke fun at her qualifying run.

Swaney said she will reflect on her Olympic experience before deciding on her future.

Not everyone loves that Swaney figured out this way to make it to the Olympics without being a true Olympic-level athlete.

She also told the Denver Post her motivations were pure and that she hopes to inspire other skiers. With no chance in the world of making it into the USA team, she found a loophole.

The entire run seemed more like a parody than an actual Olympic competition. Swaney says she's not comparing herself to her high-flying comrades, but she's inspired by them.

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