How did average American skier Elizabeth Swaney make Hungary's Olympic team?

The 33-year-old, who holds a master's degree from Harvard, finished dead last in Monday's freeskiing halfpipe competition.

Elizabeth Swaney, an American skier competing for Hungary, performed one routine trick and finished last in the women's freeskiing halfpipe competition in Pyeongchang on Monday, prompting questions about the Olympic qualification process.

International Ski Federation halfpipe and slopestyle judge Steele Spence told The Denver Post that Swaney reached the Olympics thanks in large part to a shortage of competitors and her consistency in attending events. The 33-year-old has regularly registered top-30 finishes in World Cup events simply because there weren't 30 competitors in the field.

Loading ...

"Sometimes girls would crash so she would not end up dead last," Spence told the newspaper.

WATCH: Elizabeth Swaney's halfpipe Olympic debut

Swaney, who holds a master's degree from Harvard, told multiple media outlets that her grandparents are Hungarian, which allowed her to compete for the country. She has previously participated in international skeleton competitions for Venezuela, explaining on a crowd-funding web site that her mother was born and raised there.

"I also dream that my performances help contribute to a greater sense of unity not only in Latin America but also throughout the world," she wrote on the site.

Elizabeth Swaney finished last in halfpipe qualifying on Monday. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Swaney's best performance came in December, when she finished 13th out of 15 competitors at an event in China. 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.

"I didn't qualify for the finals, so I'm really disappointed with that. But I worked really hard for several years to achieve this," Swaney said, according to Reuters. "I have been focusing on my Olympic experience but also on the halfpipe here and trying to go higher each time and getting more spins in."


While some have viewed Swaney's Olympic qualification and participation as a mockery of the Games, a few of her fellow competitors supported her efforts.

"If you are going to put in the time and effort to be here, then you deserve to be here as much as I do," Canadian Cassie Sharpe told Reuters.

Loading ...

Philippe Belanger, the head judge in Pyeonchang, told The Denver Post that the International Ski Federation is considering shrinking the number of Olympic qualifying spots in the event moving forward.