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Freestyle skiing: Hungary may rethink after Swaney halfpipe display

By Jack Tarrant
Freestyle Skiing - Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics - Women's Ski Halfpipe Qualifications - Phoenix Snow Park - Pyeongchang, South Korea - February 19, 2018 - Elizabeth Marian Swaney from Hungary reacts. REUTERS/Mike Blake

By Jack Tarrant

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) - The Hungarian Olympic Committee will consider changing its selection procedures after skier Elizabeth Swaney’s halfpipe performance went viral, with many fans wondering why an athlete of such limited ability was competing at the Games.

Swaney, born in the United States but representing Hungary in Pyeongchang, completed two runs in qualifying for the ski halfpipe on Monday.

The 33-year-old, however, did not attempt a trick more complicated than a simple alley-oop when a skier rotates 180 degrees or more in the uphill direction.

She finished bottom of the standings after two basic runs left her more than 40 points behind the 12th-placed qualifier for the final.

After raising funds through online donation websites to help fuel her Olympic ambitions, Swaney qualified for Pyeongchang due to the sheer volume of competitions she took part in.

Needing to consistently finish in the top 30 at World Cup events to make it to South Korea, Swaney persisted with easy runs, sometimes not even attempting tricks, to make sure she did not fall and always recorded a score.

Some commentators, however, questioned whether Swaney’s performance lowered the standard and integrity of the Olympics.

“We, the Hungarian Olympic Committee, have to learn the lessons from this case, and we must consider rethinking our nomination procedures,” a Hungarian team spokesman told Reuters via email.

“We shall be doing this, with the assistance of the appropriate experts, in the near future,” the spokesman added.

Swaney said she will reflect on her Olympic experience before deciding on her future.

(Reporting by Jack Tarrant, editing by Ed Osmond)