Today, we discuss how someone from the Bay Area followed her Olympic dream, made it to the 2018 Winter Games and ended up annoying a lot of people.
Getting huffy was kind of a theme this year. History will judge the impact of these games, but on the final day we can say it was certainly the crankiest Olympics.
There were team disputes, competitors sent home, wind controversies and, of course, doping. Where was that wholesome, lump-in-the-throat Olympic spirit?
It’s odd because the games began with the blockbuster announcement that North Korea was going to travel to South Korea and participate. It was an astonishment.
Cue the trumpets. It appeared a gol-darn Olympic miracle was happening. Columnists dusted off their when-nations-put-down-their-swords cliches. There was a very real appreciation for a regular, global, apolitical gathering of nations. Imagine a united Korea.
Except at least one country was not entirely sold on the idea — South Korea. Ill will from the Korean War, which ended in 1953, persists. Polls showed 60 percent of residents of the South were against reunification. And only half of them approved of the joint North-South women’s hockey team.
Even the quirky North Korea cheerleaders started to look disturbing and robotic. They removed their ski jackets in unison, refused to speak to anyone and generally looked like the creepy creation of an authoritarian state.
And so it went. Back in 1988, the Jamaican men’s bobsled team arrived for their first Olympics. It was such a feel-good story that it inspired a movie: “Cool Runnings.”
Not this year. An enormous hissy fit broke out among the women’s team, their German coach and the country’s federation. Coach Sandra Kiriasis, a former Olympic medalist, got so upset at her treatment — an official called her “a destructive force” — that she quit, just days before the first race. And she took her bobsled with her.
It worked out eventually. A beer company came up with a sled, the women competed and ended up back in the pack. But let’s just say it was no “Cool Runnings.”
And then there was Liz Swaney, 33, who was entered in the women’s halfpipe. Swaney’s hometown has been listed as both Berkeley and Oakland, but we know she lives in the Bay Area and graduated from Cal in 2007.
Here’s a summary of her Olympic experience. Swaney skied up one side of the halfpipe, turned around and went down. Then she did it again. That was pretty much it. Check the video.
She essentially did no tricks, although at the end she skied backward for a few feet. She went up the wall, made a little bunny-hop turn and came back down.
She was, of course, dead last. And that is when the fulminating began.
An internet commenter called her the “definition of a narcissist.” She was a disgrace. How did she even got a uniform?
All, hold on. First, she has a uniform because she was competing for Hungary, which is bereft of halfpipe skiers. She can be part of the team because she has Hungarian heritage.
And she didn’t just show up at the 2018 Games. She had to attend a dozen events, all over the world, paying her own way, to get enough international points to be eligible. This wasn’t a whim. Or cheap.