Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards
|Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards|
5 December 1963
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England, UK
|Known for||Britain's first Olympic ski jumper|
|Home town||Woodchester, near Stroud, Gloucestershire|
|Spouse(s)||Samantha Morton (m. 2003)|
|Children||2 (as of 2009)|
Michael Edwards (born 5 December 1963), better known as Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards, is a British skier who in 1988 became the first competitor to represent Great Britain in Olympic ski jumping. At the time, Edwards was the British ski jumping record holder (a record later broken by others), the world number nine in amateur speed skiing (106.8 mph (171.9 km/h)) and the stunt jumping world record holder (10 cars/6 buses). Finishing last in the 70m and 90m events, he became famous as an example of a plucky underdog or 'heroic failure', and of perseverance and achievement without funding that represents the British bulldog spirit.
Edwards was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. A good downhill skier, he narrowly missed out on the GB team for that event for the 1984 Games. To improve his chances to qualify for Calgary in 1988, he moved to Lake Placid in the US to train and enter races of a higher standard, but he quickly found himself short on funds. To realize his Olympic dream he decided to switch to ski jumping for reasons of cost and easier qualification as there were no other British ski jumpers with whom to compete for a place.
Eddie began jumping under the watchful eye of Chuck Berghorn in Lake Placid, NY, using Berghorn's equipment, although he had to wear six pairs of socks to make the boots fit. Edwards was handicapped by his weight—at about 82 kg (181 lb), more than 9 kg (20 lb) heavier than the next heaviest competitor—and by his lack of financial support for training—he was totally self-funded. Another problem was that he is very farsighted, requiring him to wear his eyeglasses at all times, which during ski jumps fogged to such an extent that he could not see.
Eddie was informed of his qualification for the Games while working as a plasterer and residing temporarily in a Finnish mental hospital due to lack of funds for alternative accommodation (rather than as a patient). Edwards first represented Great Britain at the 1987 World Championships, and was ranked 55th in the world and this performance qualified him, as the sole British applicant, for the 1988 Winter Olympics ski jumping competition.
Edwards was the best ski jumper in the United Kingdom, setting a British record of 73.5 m in one of his Calgary jumps in 1988.
In the 1988 Olympics, Edwards competed in, and finished last in, both the 70 m and 90 m events. From the beginning, though, his legend was embroidered with falsehoods.
They said I was afraid of heights. But I was doing sixty jumps a day then, which is hardly something someone who was afraid of heights would do.
... But was he afraid of jumping?
Of course I was. There was always a chance that my next jump would be my last. A big chance.
However, his lack of success endeared him to people around the globe. The worse he performed, the more popular he became. He subsequently became a media celebrity and appeared on talk shows around the world, appearing on The Tonight Show during the Games. The press nicknamed him "Mr. Magoo", and one Italian journalist called him a "ski dropper".
The widespread attention that Edwards received in Calgary was embarrassing to some in the ski jumping establishment. Many athletes and officials felt that Edwards was "making a mockery" of the sport. Shortly after the Olympics finished, the entry requirements were strengthened in order to make it nearly impossible for anyone to follow his example.
At the closing ceremony, the president of the Organizing Committee, Frank King, singled out Edwards for his contribution: "At these Games, some competitors have won gold, some have broken records, and some of you have even soared like an eagle."
The Eddie "The Eagle" Rule
In response to the Edwards phenomenon, in 1990, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) instituted what became known as the Eddie the Eagle Rule, which requires Olympic hopefuls to compete in international events and place in the top 30 percent or the top 50 competitors, whichever is fewer.
Edwards failed to qualify for the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France and the 1994 Games in Lillehammer, Norway. He managed to get a five-year sponsorship from Eagle Airlines, a small British charter company, to fund his attempt to reach the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan but failed to qualify for those as well.
Return to Calgary
On 13 February 2008, Edwards made a return visit to Calgary to take part in festivities marking the twentieth anniversary of the Games. During his visit, he rode the zip-line at Canada Olympic Park with a member of the Jamaican bobsled team (the ride simulates the speed of a ski-jumper) and led a procession of skiers down the slopes of the park while carrying an Olympic torch.
Edwards subsequently released a book (and a video) called On the Piste. He recorded a song in Finnish entitled "Mun nimeni on Eetu" ("My name is Eetu"), though he does not speak Finnish. Eddie's less-than-perfect pronunciation added to its appeal. Later, he recorded another Finnish language song: "Eddien Siivellä" ("On Eddie's Wing"). Both of these songs were composed and written by a popular Finnish artist Irwin Goodman.
Edwards appeared in a number of advertising campaigns, e.g. on television, promoting cars. He was able to command fees of £10,000 an hour. Nevertheless, he declared bankruptcy in 1992, claiming a trust fund for his earnings was not set up properly. He earned a degree in law at De Montfort University in Leicester. "I've been interested in law since taking out a civil action against my trustees 10 years ago," he remarked in a 2001 interview.
For several years in the early 2000s, he co-hosted a Sunday morning show with Trish Campbell on BBC Radio Gloucestershire.
In January 2010 Edwards advertised Churchill car insurance, the adverts being aired to coincide with his carrying the Olympic Torch on 7 January 2010.
In 2011 Edwards returned to Planica in Slovenia and visited one of the biggest ski jumps in the world. For the first time he brought his family with him under the ski slopes and made a successful promotion video Eddie Lands in Slovenia, while visiting places like Kranjska Gora, Lake Bled, Ljubljana, Postojna Caves, Lipica, Portorož and Piran. Video was later posted on the YouTube and many UK websites. Edwards described visit to Slovenia as one of the family's nicest trips so far.
On 24 March 2012, Edwards appeared as a competitor on the first Winter Wipeout (Total Wipeout) celebrity special. He came first in each round and won the final by a comfortable margin, beating Tony Mortimer (formerly of pop group East 17) and Steven Arnold (Ashley Peacock in UK soap Coronation Street).
In January 2013, Edwards competed in the ITV celebrity diving programme Splash!. Previously involved in gymnastics, he was determined to master some difficult dives. He did an inward 1.5 somersault pike from 10 m in the semi-final. In the final he did a synchro dive with Tom Daley. He later became the winner, beating competitors Jake Canuso and Linda Barker by public vote.
In January 2014, Edwards commentated on the Channel 4 The Jump TV programme, where 12 famous people took part in winter sports. As part of each episode, Edwards jumped off the largest of three ski jumps which gives the series its name.
A film chronicling the life story of Edwards has been planned by Irish director Declan Lowney since 2007. Comedian Steve Coogan was originally slated for the title role. Edwards was said to be pleased with the choice but also joked that Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise would be better suited for the role. In 2009, Lowney announced that Rupert Grint would instead play the role. The film was scheduled to begin production once Grint completed work on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 and Part 2 but did not go ahead.
- Eric Moussambani: Eric "the Eel", another famously unsuccessful Olympian
- Philip Boit
- Trevor Misipeka
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