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Harvard Graduate Outsmarted The System To Compete In Winter Olympics

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Harvard Graduate Outsmarted The System To Compete In Winter Olympics

This year's Winter Olympics began last week in China. If you’re someone who enjoys tuning in to the games, you will most likely expect to see the best of the best gracing your screen. 

However, back in 2018, free skier Elizabeth Swaney threw a spanner in the works after she managed to nab a place at the games despite not having the skill of her peers. 

After completing her painfully average qualifying runs at South Korea’s Winter Olympics, it was clear to everyone at home that Swaney was not an elite athlete. 


In fact, Swaney had only been freestyle skiing for five years, deciding to make it her life’s mission to compete in the Olympics. 

As a graduate from Harvard, Swaney set out to use her wits, rather than her athletic ability, to get her to the games. 

Credit: Alamy
Credit: Alamy

However, she swiftly realised that with all the luck in the world, the United States team was simply too competitive for her. 


So, in a stroke of genius, Swaney opted to ski for Venezuela, her mum’s home country. 

She failed to qualify for the 2014 Olympic games in both the skeleton and freestyle, so made another change to her programme. 

In 2015, Swaney switched to represent Hungary, the country where her grandparents were born.

She also moved to competing in halfpipe skiing, where competitors whizz down a steep track while doing tricks off the walls. 


Finally, Swaney had a shot at meeting the International Ski Federation’s requirements, all she had to do was complete very basic runs without crashing in order to slowly but surely work her way up the rankings. 

Credit: Alamy
Credit: Alamy

Her calculations turned out to be correct, as she finally qualified to compete in the women’s halfpipe ski at the 2018 Winter Olympics. 

Despite having the intelligence, Swaney evidently lacked the athletic ability, as she placed last in the competition, 13.60 points behind Laila Friis-Salling of Denmark, who had fallen in both of her qualifying runs. 


Controversy inevitably ensued after her brief stint in the games, as more serious athletes believed she was making a mockery of the games and securing a spot through technicalities, rather than talent. 

There were also plenty of skiers who just missed out on a spot to represent their nation, leaving them bitter as they were forced to watch Swaney compete from home. 

She was branded the 'worst Olympian ever' on Twitter, while a CBS sports columnist said she had achieved 'the real American dream: scamming the system to achieve your life goals while doing the absolute bare minimum to get there'.

Nevertheless, Swaney has become somewhat of an icon for playing the system to achieve her dreams. 

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Winter Olympics, Sport, World News

Abbi Murray
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