Olympics 101: How to game the system

Olivia Staser/Staff

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In the movie ‘The Dark Knight Rises,’ supervillain Bane declares that, “Nobody cared who (he) was until (he) put on the mask.” Recent viral sensation Elizabeth Swaney, who some are framing as a modern-day supervillain of her own, may be feeling some of the same sentiment.

Nobody knew who she was — until she “competed” down the halfpipe during the skiing event at the 2018 Winter Olympics, skiing at a very average pace.

The words “average” and “Olympics” simply do not belong in the same sentence. But just as Bane’s mask hid his face, Swaney’s viral fame as a result of the scrutiny she has received for competing for the Hungarian national team hides her list of ultra-impressive feats she has accomplished in her 33 years of life.

Swaney was a triple major at UC Berkeley and received a master’s degree from Harvard. One could stop there, and those feats alone would be worthy of praise. But Swaney wasn’t satisfied.

Whether it was trying out for the Utah Jazz dance team twice (and being rejected twice) to attempting to represent the United States, Venezuela and finally, Hungary, she is utterly persistent in everything she does in life.

Swaney had a goal to become an Olympian. First she tried figure skating then ice hockey and speed skating — no cigar. That’s when skiing entered the picture.

Swaney entered a fairly easy Olympic sport — for as easy as an Olympic sport can be. As Jason Blevins of the Denver Post writes, to be able to qualify for the Olympic ladies’ halfpipe, women must record a certain number of top-30 finishes in qualifying events, many of which don’t even feature 30 participants.

Therein lies the loophole that many are criticizing Swaney for finding. The internet has taken to bashing Swaney for “gaming the system” and getting into the Olympics without possessing any superhuman abilities.

One Twitter user tweeted, “Elizabeth Swaney should be ashamed of herself. What a joke.”

Maybe it’s those three concentrations from Cal or the master’s degree from Harvard that gave Swaney an edge over the rest of the women out there who have dreamed of having the opportunity to call themselves an Olympic athlete. Perhaps it’s her sheer refusal to give up. But Swaney had dreams of becoming an Olympian — and look at her now.

Christie Aguilar is an assistant sports editor. Contact her at [email protected].