Winter Olympics: Bad skier games system to reach PyeongChang

Let's not beat around the bush: Elizabeth Swaney is not a good freestyle skier. She can't do any tricks, can't get any air, can't do anything but go up and down the halfpipe like anyone at the local bunny hill might.

And yet there Swaney was on Monday, one of 24 skiers competing in the qualifiers of the ladies' halfpipe at the Winter Olympics. While three fellow American citizens placed among the top six qualifiers, the 33-year-old Swaney placed dead last while competing for Hungary and won't participate in Tuesday's final.

On the bright side, she didn't crash, the announcers were polite toward her during her stunt and she didn't experience a wardrobe malfunction.

Seriously, you HAVE to watch this:

The odd sight of Swaney's pedestrian performance was the end to a quixotic quest that raised questions of whether someone with inferior credentials should be allowed to game the system to become an Olympian.

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The worst crashes and wipeouts of the Winter Olympics
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The worst crashes and wipeouts of the Winter Olympics
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 14: Yuto Totsuka of Japan crashes during the Snowboard Men's Halfpipe Final on day five of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics at Phoenix Snow Park on February 14, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 14: Yuto Totsuka of Japan crashes during the Snowboard Men's Halfpipe Final on day five of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics at Phoenix Snow Park on February 14, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Short Track Speed Skating Events ? Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Men?s 1000m Competition ? Gangneung Ice Arena - Gangneung, South Korea ? February 13, 2018 - Roberto Pukitis of Latvia, J.R. Celski of the U.S. and Pavel Sitnikov, Olympic athlete from Russia, react after crashing. REUTERS/John Sibley
Alpine Skiing ? Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Men?s Alpine Combined ? Jeongseon Alpine Centre - Pyeongchang, South Korea ? February 13, 2018 - Matthias Mayer of Austria crashes during the Men's Slalom part of the Men's Alpine Combined. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini SEARCH "OLYMPICS BEST" FOR ALL PICTURES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
Alpine Skiing ? Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Men?s Alpine Combined ? Jeongseon Alpine Centre - Pyeongchang, South Korea ? February 13, 2018 - Pavel Trikichev, an Olympic Athlete from Russia, is seen in the net after crashing during the Men's Downhill part of the Men's Alpine Combined. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini
Figure Skating ? Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Team Event Pair Free Skating ? Gangneung Ice Arena - Gangneung, South Korea ? February 11, 2018 - Miu Suzaki falls as she and her partner Ryuichi Kihara of Japan compete. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Snowboarding - Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics - Women's Halfpipe Finals - Phoenix Snow Park - Pyeongchang, South Korea - February 13, 2018 - Emily Arthur of Australia crashes while competing. REUTERS/Issei Kato
Snowboarding - Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics - Women's Slopestyle Finals - Phoenix Snow Park - Pyeongchang, South Korea - February 12, 2018 - Yuka Fujimori of Japan crashes. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Snowboarding - Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics - Men's Slopestyle Finals - Phoenix Snow Park - Pyeongchang, South Korea - February 11, 2018 - Sebastien Toutant of Canada crashes. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
Luge ? Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Women?s Singles training ? Olympic Sliding Centre - Pyeongchang, South Korea ? February 11, 2018 - Emily Sweeney of the U.S. crashes. REUTERS/Edgar Su
Cross-Country Skiing ? Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Men?s 15km + 15km Skiathlon ? Alpensia Cross-Country Skiing Centre ? Pyeongchang, South Korea ? February 11, 2018 - Denis Spitsov, an Olympic athlete from Russia, Andrey Larkov, an Olympic athlete from Russia, and Simen Hegstad Krueger of Norway crash. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 10: Charlotte Gilmartin of Great Britain and Petra Jaszapati of Hungary crash during the Ladies� 500m Short Track Speed Skating qualifying on day one of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Ice Arena on February 10, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Figure Skating ? Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Team Event Men's Single Skating Free Skating competition final ? Gangneung Ice Arena - Gangneung, South Korea ? February 12, 2018 - Mikhail Kolyada, an Olympic athlete from Russia, falls. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 10: Tianyu Han of China and Yuri Confortola of Italy crash during the Men's 1500m Short Track Speed Skating qualifying on day one of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Ice Arena on February 10, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 09: Jussi Penttala of Finland crash lands during the Freestyle Skiing Men's Moguls Qualification at Phoenix Snow Park on February 9, 2018 in PyeongChang, South Korea. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 13: Elise Christie of Great Britain crashes during the Ladies' 500m Short Track Speed Skating final on day four of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Ice Arena on February 13, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Canada's Patrick Chan falls while competing in the figure skating team event men's single skating free skating during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung on February 12, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Mladen ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Snowboarding - Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics - Women's Halfpipe Finals - Phoenix Snow Park - Pyeongchang, South Korea - February 13, 2018 - Emily Arthur of Australia after falling in her final run. REUTERS/Mike Blake TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Freestyle Skiing ? Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics ? Men?s Moguls Final ? Phoenix Snow Park ? Pyeongchang, South Korea ? February 12, 2018 - Choi Jae Woo of South Korea falls during the race competes. REUTERS/Mike Blake
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 12: Sho Endo of Japan crashes in the Freestyle Skiing Men's Moguls Final on day three of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Phoenix Snow Park on February 12, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 12: 't Klaudia Medlova #26 of Slovakia crash lands during the Women's Slopestyle Snowboard competition at Phoenix Snow Park on February 12, 2018 in PyeongChang, South Korea. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
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Does Swaney's bid highlight the joy of Olympic participation or is it an affront to the world-class skiers that share a stage with her?

A quick look at Swaney's social media accounts reveals people on both sides:

So how did Swaney find herself in that halfpipe?

Well, if showing up is 80 percent of life, showing up for ladies' halfpipe qualifiers must be at least 80 percent when it comes to making the Olympics.

As Jason Blevins of the Denver Post explains, the international field for ladies' halfpipe is not exceedingly deep. Qualifying for the Olympics involves recording a certain number of top-30 finishes in qualifying events and many of these events don't even feature 30 people.

So Swaney burned up the globe, attending qualifiers in places like China, South Korea, Italy, Canada and New Zealand. After initially representing Venezuela in these events, Swaney claimed Hungarian ties through her grandparents. And thanks to a system of quotas, she eventually qualified for the Olympics, despite never attempting a single trick above the deck. Her best finish was 13th out of 15 competitors in China when most of the good freestyle skiers were competing at the same time in the United States.

"She would compete in them consistently over the last couple years and sometimes girls would crash so she would not end up dead last," FIS judge Steele Spence told the Denver Post. "There are going to be changes to world cup quotas and qualifying to be eligible for the Olympics. Those things are in the works so technically you need to qualify up through the system."

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Americans who have medaled at the 2018 Winter Olympics
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Americans who have medaled at the 2018 Winter Olympics
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 13: Gold medalist Chloe Kim of the United States poses during the medal ceremony for the Snowboard Ladies' Halfpipe Final on day four of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Medal Plaza on February 13, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 13: Bronze medalist Arielle Gold of the United States poses during the medal ceremony for the Snowboard Ladies' Halfpipe Final on day four of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Medal Plaza on February 13, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 11: U.S. Olympian Red Gerard poses with his Gold Medal at the USA House at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games on February 11, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for USOC)
USA's gold medallist Jamie Anderson poses on the podium during the medal ceremony for the women's snowboard slopestyle at the Pyeongchang Medals Plaza during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang on February 12, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Fabrice COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
USA's silver medallist Chris Mazdzer poses on the podium during the medal ceremony for the men's luge singles at the Pyeongchang Medals Plaza during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang on February 12, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Fabrice COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
The USA team who won bronze pose on the podium during the medal ceremony for the figure skating team event at the Pyeongchang Medals Plaza during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang on February 12, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Fabrice COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 12: Bronze medalists Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani of the United States pose with their teammates during the victory ceremony after the Figure Skating Team Event at Medal Plaza on February 12, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
USA's Shaun White with his gold medal after victory in the Men's Halfpipe Snowboard during the medal ceremony at the Medal Plaza during day five of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games in South Korea. (Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 15: Gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States celebrates during the medal ceremony for Alpine Skiing - Ladies' Giant Slalom on day six of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Medal Plaza on February 15, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 18: Silver medalist Nick Goepper of the United States celebrates during the medal ceremony for the Freestyle Skiing Men's Ski Slopestyle on day nine of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Medal Plaza on February 18, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - USA's silver medallist John-Henry Krueger kisses his medal on the podium during the medal ceremony for the short track men's 1000m at the Pyeongchang Medals Plaza during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang on February 18, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / JAVIER SORIANO (Photo credit should read JAVIER SORIANO/AFP/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 20: Bronze medalists Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani of the United States celebrate during the medal ceremony for Figure Skating - Ice Dance Free Dance on day 11 of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Medal Plaza on February 20, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
USA's bronze medallist Brita Sigourney poses on the podium during the medal ceremony for the freestyle skiing women's halfpipe at the Pyeongchang Medals Plaza during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang on February 20, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Fabrice COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
Pyeongchang, Gangwon - FEBRUARY 21: Bronze medallist Lindsey Vonn of the United States celebrates during the medal ceremony for the Ladies' Downhill on day twelve of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Medal PlazaFebruary 21, 2018 (Photo by Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 21: Heather Bergsma, Brittany Bowe, Mia Manganello and Carlijn Schoutens of the United States celebrate after winning the bronze medal in the Speed Skating Ladies' Team Pursuit Final B against Canada on day 12 of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Oval on February 21, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Amin Mohammad Jamali/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 21: Jessica Diggins of the United States (L) and Kikkan Randall of the United States celebrate as they win gold during the Cross Country Ladies' Team Sprint Free Final on day 12 of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Alpensia Cross-Country Centre on February 21, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG, Feb. 22, 2018 -- David Wise of the United States celebrates with his family after men's ski halfpipe of freestyle skiing at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games at Phoenix Snow Park, PyeongChang, South Korea, Feb. 22, 2018. David Wise won the gold medal with 97.20 points. (Xinhua/Wu Zhuang via Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 22: Jamie Anderson of United States is seen with her silver medal from the Ladies Snowboard Big Air Final at Medal Plaza on February 22, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA -FEBRUARY 22: Silver medalist Mikaela Shiffrin #19 of the United States at the presentations after the Alpine Skiing - Ladies' Alpine Combined Slalom at Jeongseon Alpine Centre on February 22, 2018 in PyeongChang, South Korea. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 22: (L-R) Carlijn Schoutens and Mia Manganello of the United States celebrate during the medal ceremony for Speed Skating - Ladies' Team Pursuit on day 13 of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Medal Plaza on February 22, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 22: Silver medalist Alex Ferreira of the United States celebrates during the medal ceremony for Freestyle Skiing - Men's Ski Halfpipe on day 13 of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Medal Plaza on February 22, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 22: Silver medalists Lauren Gibbs and Elana Meyers Taylor of the United States celebrate during the medal ceremony for Bobsleigh - Women on day 13 of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Medal Plaza on February 22, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
GANGNEUNG, Pyeongchang- FEBRUARY 22 - Team USA with their medals as Canada loses in a shootout to the United States in the Olympic women's hockey gold medal game at the Gangneung Hockey Centre in Gangneung in Pyeongchang in South Korea. February 22, 2018. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
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Schwarzenegger

Swaney is an interesting character. She graduated from Cal-Berkeley where she was on the crew team and tried to run for governor against Arnold Schwarzenegger when she was only 19 years old. She later went to Harvard for a graduate degree in design and works in the Bay Area as a recruiter for software engineers.

While she attempted to crowdfund for her Olympic experience, efforts on GoFundMe and RallyMe raised a total of zero dollars. And yet she found her way to South Korea anyway.

The most natural parallels to Swaney are Mexico's German Madrazo and Tonga's Pita Taufatofua. Neither had a great deal of experience with cross-country skiing but drew cheers after completing the course waaay behind the winners last week. It's hard to slam Swaney while Madrazo and Taufatofua are being celebrated for their efforts across the globe.

Swaney, of course, found both men and took a picture with the fellow kindred spirits.

So how are we supposed to feel about Olympians like Swaney, Madrazo and Taufatofua?

Perhaps our answer comes in the famous quote from Pierre de Coubertin, the father of the modern Olympics.

"The important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win, but to take part," de Coubertin said. "The important thing in life is not triumph, but the struggle; the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."

As for how the other freestyle skiers feel about Swaney? Well, it's hard to say. None of them would go on the record with the Denver Post for the story, which might tell you they think de Coubertin was full of it.

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