Elizabeth Swaney is your new favorite Olympic skier. Trust me.
Halfpipe skiing is one of the newest winter Olympic events, featuring high-flying spins, flips, and tricks. Here’s a gold-medal run from 2014 by Maddie Bowman, for reference:
Pretty amazing, right?
Swaney is an American skiing for Hungary, and managed to place on the team thanks to a combination of factors.
Basically, since women's halfpipe skiing is a fairly new event, there tend to be very few athletes competing in the World Cup to qualify. Generally the top 30 will earn a spot at the Olympics, and — as halfpipe judge Steele Spence told the Denver Post — Swaney was up against only 25 to 28 other women at World Cup events.
Swaney’s runs contain essentially no tricks, which allows her to consistently complete runs without falling.
That consistency is key: Swaney managed to qualify for the Olympics by attending every World Cup event she could and playing it safe with her trick-free runs.
In fact, Swaney’s Olympic qualification after just eight years of skiing might even cause changes to qualification requirements.
Philippe Belanger, the head judge for freeskiing events at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, told the Denver Post that athletes might need to earn more points in the future to qualify, requiring more jumps and tricks as opposed to just not falling down.
But you know what? I say that Elizabeth Swaney gives hope and inspiration to all of us who have a dream and determination, but aren’t athletic demigods who started training at age 4.
Good luck in Pyeongchang, Elizabeth!