Freeskier Elizabeth Swaney Finds Loophole in Olympic Qualifying System

You were probably at home watching the Olympics and wishing you had the talents of some of these athletes, and then you watched a performance that made you say, “I could do that.”

It’s safe to say you won’t see Elizabeth Swaney at the X Games next year, but she has something on her resume that you and I both don’t, performed at an event in the Olympics.

Still confused at how she qualified with a run like that? Let me explain.

There were 24 spots open for women’s ski halfpipe, however those spots don’t go to the best 24 skiers in the world. Each nation could only send a maximum of four skiers to compete. For example, the U.S. had six of the top 20 spots for qualification, but could only send the top four because of the limits. This gave Swaney a shot to make the Olympics.

Swaney finished No. 34 in Olympic Qualifying, however, due to some countries having to forego their extra spots, some countries not using all of their spots, and athletes pulling out because of injury the last qualification spot went to Swaney.

The International Ski Federation (FIS), has minimum requirements for athletes to be eligible for the Olympics, which include finishing in the top 30 at a World Cup event and scoring a minimum number of FIS points.

Here’s how Swaney met those requirements.

Many World Cup events had fewer than 30 athletes competing. This means as long as Swaney showed up and dropped in for a run, she was guaranteed a top-30 finish and at least a few FIS points. She used very basic runs, not attempting any tricks so she could avoid crashing and losing points, to get herself into position to qualify for the Olympics.

It’s safe we won’t have to worry about a doping scandal with her either!

I give her mad props for 1) finding a loophole in the qualification system and 2) being able to do the bare minimum. What most people don’t realize is that just going up and down like she did is very difficult. The halfpipe walls are a lot higher than they look!

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