Tuesday, February 20, 2018

I Think This Is My Favorite 2018 Olympics Story

This is the story of Elizabeth Swaney, a 33-year old American skier who by studying what it takes to qualify, persistence, dedication, and setting goals for herself, is skiing for Hungary in the 2018 Winter Olympics still underway in Korea. 

By all accounts, Elizabeth is a mediocre skier, but that didn't stop her dreams of making the Olympics.  She learned what she had to do to make it and did everything she needed to do.
Swaney's half-pipe run on Monday involved one quasi-trick, no air, and a last-place finish. She frequently did not clear the top of the half-pipe. She qualified for the Olympics by leveraging her grandparents' Hungarian birth to attend International Ski Federation World Cup events, where she regularly finished among the top 30 skiers because fewer than 30 skiers showed up to compete.
One commentator I heard said that, unlike the stars of her sport, she'd show up at small events.  Some of them were so small, they didn't have 30 skiers.  That guaranteed she'd finish in the top 30. 
International Ski Federation judge Steele Spence told The Denver Post, "She would compete in [events] consistently over the last couple years and sometimes girls would crash so she would not end up dead last."
The Guardian puts it this way:
A Harvard graduate who once ran against Arnold Schwarzenegger in the race to be California governor, Swaney only started skiing at 25 and has been driven ever since in her quest to compete at an Olympics. After raising funds through online donations to help fuel her Olympic ambitions, Swaney managed to qualify for Pyeongchang due to the sheer volume of competitions she attended.
OK, so she's not a great skier.  So what?  It doesn't appear that "great skier" was her goal.  Her goal was being there - at the Olympics, in the athlete's village, living the life of an Olympian.  She made her goal through persistence and hard work.  I just can't find fault with that.  Lots of athletes compete for countries other than where they live and train - you see it all the time.  She's Hungarian by their laws, she qualified by rules everyone acknowledges are the rules. 

Liz Swaney photo from Instagram

Back in 2014,  US Navy Admiral William H. McRaven, gave a commencement speech to the University of Texas at Austin.  It has become a speech that was talked about a lot then and still bears paying attention, or watching the video.  It's called the 10 Life Lessons From Seal Training.  I think number 10 describes Liz Swaney perfectly. 
10. If you want to change the world, don’t ever, ever ring the bell.
“In SEAL training there is a bell. A brass bell that hangs in the center of the compound for all the students to see. All you have to do to quit – is ring the bell. Ring the bell and you no longer have to wake up at 5 o’clock. Ring the bell and you no longer have to do the freezing cold swims. Ring the bell and you no longer have to do the runs, the obstacle course, the PT – and you no longer have to endure the hardships of training. Just ring the bell. If you want to change the world, don’t ever, ever ring the bell.”
Reword that somewhat to "If you want to achieve your goals, don't ever, ever quit".  She set a clear goal, figured out how to get from nowhere near the goal to achieving it, and never, ever, quit.  In an Olympics mostly filled with celebrity Trump Derangement Syndrome, fawning over the North Korean Propaganda Minister, defining "not medaling while gay" as winning everything, I think I like Liz Swaney best of all.

1 comment:

  1. Well, being shrewd is also a way to accomplish your goals. Good on her. I liked the Olympics back in the good 'ol days of ABC's Wide World of Sports when amateurs were the players and your youth did not mean you were necessarily the world's best. On any given day ...

    I haven't watched a single minute this year, come to think of it, it has been an awful long time since I watched an Olympic event. When teams are made up of professionals, well, the fun is gone for me.