20 February 2018

Not quite the Olympics! Friend and Secarma MD Paul Harris speeding down the slopes in Verbier.

Not quite the Olympics! Friend and Secarma MD Paul Harris speeding down the slopes in Verbier.

The training, dedication and hard work needed to reach Pyeongchang 2018 is extraordinary. The hours of practice, years of build-up and unmitigated commitment to become the best of the best. Unless, that is, you find a work-around!

There is no denying the ingenuity of American half-pipe skier Elizabeth Swaney. Swaney competed for Hungary in Pyeongchang and quickly became a public hero. However, it was because of her extraordinary cunning rather than her skill level.

Swaney finished the halfpipe competition in last place, missing out on a spot in the Olympic finals, by skiing steadily along the course, achieving little air and performing no tricks. Not the performance you would expect as the best of the best come to compete. So how did Swaney get to the Olympics? Ingenuity!

Thanks to the lack of female halfpipe skiers, Swaney was able to follow the qualification process and get to Pyeongchang in part, simply by turning up to competitions. To qualify for the Olympics you have to finish in the top 30 of a number of World Championships.

The skier spent two years competing all over the world in competitions, often with fewer than 30 competitors, guaranteeing her a top 30 finish. Some have commented that this downplays the skill and effort of the other competitors but the first place finisher for the finals, who went on to win Gold, disagrees. Canada’s Cassie Sharpe told the media: “If you are going to put in the time and effort to be here, then you deserve to be here as much as I do.”

What does it take to compete in the Olympics?

The Guardian reported the story saying: Swaney’s performances may have disgruntled some but she was unconcerned by any negativity towards her intentions. “[People doubting me] actually motivates me to improve more,” she added. “I worked really hard to come here and there are only 24 women in the world that could be in this final. So I use this as motivation.”

To me, it sounds like this ability to grasp opportunities no matter the challenge ahead is in Swaney’s nature – she once ran against Arnold Schwarzenegger to become a California governor. She crowd-funded the money needed to help her Oympic quest. And she’s a software engineer in Silicon Valley, something you couldn’t be without an innovative streak, ambition and tenacity.

Often when I talk about the goals that I set, people comment that they are unachievable. I wonder how many people told Elizabeth Swaney that she would never make it to the Winter Olympics? How many people told her that she wasn’t good enough?

With the right mindset and approach, you can achieve anything even competing in the Olympics!

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