Death, taxes, and athletes so mediocre in their chosen field that they overshadow virtually everyone else at the Olympic Games; in life, only these three things are inevitable.
It all started, of course, with British ski jumper ‘Eddie the Eagle‘ at Calgary 1988. Then there was Equatorial Guinea swimmer ‘Eric The Eel’ at Sydney 2000. And now, now there’s the story of Californian halfpipe skier Elizabeth Swaney representing the nation of Hungary at Pyeongchang 2018.
They say history is written by the victors, but is it really? Everyone remembers Michael Edwards (aka ‘Eddie The Eagle’) effectively falling from the ski jump like a wounded pigeon, but does anyone outside core ski jump circles really remember the name of the man who scooped all the golds that year. Answer: it was Finland’s Matti Nykänen – a man widely considered to be the greatest ski jumper of all time.
“I’m just so honoured and proud and excited to be an Olympian”
If you missed Elizabeth Swaney’s halfpipe efforts in South Korea, you missed someone ripping up the freestyle skiing rulebook by laying down runs that essentially offered nothing in the way of tricks. From one side to the other, and then back again she went. There was an alley-oop, where the skier rotates 180 degrees or more in the uphill direction, and a revert to switch on the way out but that was basically it.
What with this being 2018, and a time of viral banter, there was a certain predictability to the way Liz’s performance took over the internet. Some people enjoyed the “it’s not the winning, it’s the taking part” nature of it and felt it was in keeping with the Olympic spirit. Others, meanwhile, said it made a complete mockery of the event and that Swaney’s “gaming” of the system to qualify had meant a more talented female halfpipe skier had missed out. With everyone talking about her, and making their own assumptions, I decided to make contact.
“I’m just so honoured and proud, and excited to be an Olympian. And to be amongst so many amazing athletes at the Olympic village, as well as competing, has been a great experience,” Liz tells me over Skype.