“In my case, there are only two kinds of hope – Bob Hope and no hope." - Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards 1988
The question on British sport fans lips when Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards prepared to launch himself into oblivion at 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics was not, will he make it to the medals, but will he make it in one piece at all. No one expected Eddie to win and no one really cared. He was displaying a typically British, “have a go” attitude that says that the competing is more important than the winning. He had no big sponsors and very little experience, but he became a winner by just staying up on his feet.
We love a courageous underdog in Britain; with our record of sporting achievement, we have very little choice. So, as a star studded movie celebrating the heroic achievements of Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards is about to hit the screens, here’s a roundup of facts about Britain’s first ever Olympic ski-jumper.
1. He took up ski-jumping because it was cheaper than downhill skiing
Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards, whose real name is Michael Edwards, was actually an accomplished skier and he only just missed out on qualifying for the 1984 Winter Olympics in the GB downhill skiing team. When he failed to qualify, he decided to move to Lake Placid in the US to practice and improve his chances of getting into the 1988 team. He ran out of money, though, so he switched to ski-jumping because it was cheaper and he thought would have a better chance of qualifying.
2. He went on a European ski-jumping tour in his mum’s car
To qualify for the 1988 Olympics, Edwards needed to compete in European competitions, but that was easier said than done with no money and no sponsors. Undeterred, Eddie the Eagle borrowed his mum’s car to get him around Europe and did jobs like babysitting and working in hotels to fund his trip. At one point, he broke his jaw in an accident, but couldn’t afford the medical bills, so he tied up his jaw in a pillowcase and carried on anyway.
3. He made do with borrowed and second hand equipment
Eddie was hardly kitted out with top of the range equipment either. Because he had no money, he made do with what he could borrow and cheap second hand kit. His boots were too big for him, so he had to wear six pairs of socks to keep them on. His helmet was too big as well, so he had to tie it on with a piece of string.
4. His glasses misted up when he jumped
Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards was seriously short sighted, so he had to wear his think-lensed glasses when he jumped. He admitted that he often couldn’t even see where he was going on the ski jump, because he glasses misted up with the cold.
5. He was too heavy
As if Britain’s most famous ski-jumper didn’t have enough problems, he was also handicapped by his weight. At 181lb, he was the heaviest jumper in the competition and he was 20lb heavier than the next heaviest ski-jumper.
6. His Calgary adventure didn’t get off to a good start
Things went wrong for Edwards from the very first moment he landed in Calgary. When he tried to pick up his luggage on the airport luggage carousel, his suitcase burst open and he had to jump on the carousel to recover all his belongings. He later walked straight into a glass door that he hadn’t realised had failed to open and broke his skis. Fortunately, some of his fans knew he was short of cash, so they had a whip round to help him out.
7. The media loved him, even if the Olympic officials did not
Stuffy Olympic officials and many of the other competitors in the games thought that Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards was nothing more than a laughing stock that was making a mockery out of the sport. Edwards was barred from entering the official Olympic media centre, but many of the world’s media still attended Eddie’s unofficial press conferences in preference to listening to the official ones.
8. Olympic officials tried clip Eddie’s wings
The Olympic authorities tried their very best to get our hero not to jump. The director of the ski-jump event, Torjborn Yggeseth, asked British officials not to allow Edwards to compete. You can’t keep a brave Brit down, though, the Brits ignored the pleas of the officials and Edwards went on to make his famous, if not winning, jumps.
9. He set a new record!
Well, actually he came last, but he did set a new personal best and a British record. Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards flew an impressive 55m, which as well behind the second from last contender, let alone the winner. But’s he did manage to come through it without any serious injuries.
10. A new rule was imposed to stop future “Eddies” competing in the Olympic Games
In response Eddie’s valiant efforts at the 1998 Winter Olympics, killjoys at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) invented a new rule, known as The Eddie "The Eagle" Rule, to stop similar episodes ever happening again. Form 1990, if you want to compete in the Olympics, you have to compete at international level and be in the top 30% to even get a look in. Sadly, that rule prevented Eddie the Eagle ever appearing again at a Winter Olympics.
Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards may not have won any medals and he may have been ridiculed by many, but at the least the man had the balls and the tenacity to give it a go. We can’t all be the best in the world, but Michael Edwards, a plasterer from Cheltenham, showed the world that you don’t always have to come first to be a winner.
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