Elizabeth Swaney has run for governor, trained in music, and auditioned as a pro cheerleader. But it was her befuddling appearance in the Winter Olympics that made headlines
If you happened to tune in to the Winter Games last year during the women’s halfpipe skiing competition, you might have caught one of the Olympics’ most perplexing moments. Halfpipe, which was introduced to the games in 2014, features an adrenaline-soaked spectacle: skiers plummet down a steep track into a frozen ramp the shape of an empty motel swimming pool, before flying up the ramp’s 22ft walls and launching high into the air for a series of bold tricks.
For years, the Olympics had been hemorrhaging viewers to the younger-skewing X Games. Adding halfpipe, among a slew of other freestyle skiing and snowboarding competitions, seemed like a clear bid to siphon back fans who craved big air. Last February, in the qualifying round in Pyeongchang, skier after skier hit the pipe ramp and soared into the sky, their bodies flipping and spinning. Then, Elizabeth Swaney – an Oakland native who’d been a last-minute add to the Hungarian team – started her run, and something really weird happened: she barely did any tricks.