Thanks, Olympics, for Messing with Us, Again

The Olympics are at it again.

Just when you give in, turn on the Games, and buy into all the hype that every sponsor is selling you, here comes Elizabeth Swaney, personifying exactly what the Olympic Games do best — fool us into thinking this is some transcendent sporting event that captures all the good that exists in sports. News flash, folks. The Olympics aren’t that — heck, they’re not even trying to trick us into believing that half the time thanks to all the scandal and improper financial dealings that have become public over the years. But in those times that they do try and get us believing in the thrill of victory and the tears and emotion of sport, an Elizabeth Swaney-type comes along and makes us — at least SHOULD make us — want to turn off our TV sets.

By this point, you may have heard about her by now, Elizabeth Swaney is an American, born in California, competing for the Hungarian Ski Team and she participates in the Women’s Half-pipe event. Well, I mean technically she participates, but she certainly does not fill the definition of “compete”.  She took part in international events around the world on the ski halfpipe circuit. Without getting into all the math and the points system used for the sport, just know that Swaney entered as many competitions as she could in an attempt to accumulate as many points as possible. That doesn’t sound strange, right? Seems normal – want to go to the Olympics, then compete in the qualifying events and earn points. Simple. So far so good.

The story gets more interesting when you watch Swaney compete, though. Something isn’t right, per se.  She does nothing spectacular, barely gets any air when all her competitors are flying off the halfpipe and launching themselves 5, 10 feet into their air, doing twists and flips and risking their careers and in many cases their lives.

Rather, Swaney resembles an average skier who is trying to just maintain her balance, not fall, and make it to the end of the run. And in most cases, she’s successful. And because of that, Swaney kept slowly but surely earning points at these events and making her way up the world rankings, as far as Olympic-qualifying went. At the end of all the qualifying events and after all the teams named their four representatives for the Games, Swaney was in Hungary’s top-4, thus earning her a trip to South Korea.

Listen, if those are the rules, they should really be adjusted. The Olympics are the best of the very best and what the IOC has allowed Swaney to do — which is simply manipulate a flawed system — diminishes what so many other athletes have done to get to the Olympic Games. Some athletes compete and train for decades trying to earn a shot at that stage of sports and never get it. And you’re telling me, this average skier gets to go to the Olympics, be on TV around the world, enjoy all the perks of being an Olympic athlete because she played the system and calculated the math out correctly? Don’t give me this – “well, those are the rules” or “hey she worked hard and trained too”. Just stop right there.

If you’re defending her or defending how she got there, you don’t get it. You really want to watch the Olympics to see what Swaney did? You want to trade in excellence for average in your Olympic Games? I have a hard enough time tuning in to the Games when I know I’m watching the best athletes in their sport, let alone if I turn the TV  and see Elizabeth Swaney making moves on the half-pipe that my mom could make.

If it’s not corruption before the Games or desertion after, it’s this. The Olympics just can’t seem to get it right. And, sadly, I’m not sure they’re trying too hard to fix any of it.


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Author: Brian Goodwin

An educator for 15 years. I have a passion for sports and a passion for writing about sports. I'm very excited to run this blog and have conversations with people about relevant topics, mostly pertaining to sports but also in all aspects of life.

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