Michael ‘Eddie’ Edwards, otherwise known as ‘Eddie The Eagle’, was the subject of 2016 sports comedy-drama film of the same name, starring Taron Egerton in the title role. Although largely fictitious, the film was loosely based on Edwards’ life story.
Born into a working-class family in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, Edwards was initially a downhill skier but, having narrowly missed selection for the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo in that capacity, he later turned to ski jumping as a less expensive and less competitive – at least, as far as Britain was concerned – option.
In the summer of 1986, at the age of twenty-two, Edwards took time off from his career as a plasterer to visit the Lake Placid Olympic Ski Jumping Complex in New York, where he concluded that ski jumping looked ‘alright’. He jumped in his first European Cup event at St. Moritz, Switzerland on Boxing Day, 1986 and, the following year, jumped in the Four Hills Tournament at Oberstdorf, West Germany.
Following his return from torn knee ligaments, sustained in the latter event, the British Ski Federation decreed that if he could jump 70 metres in a World Cup event he would be allowed to represent Great Britain in the Winter Olympics in Calgary the following year. In December, 1987, Edwards jumped 69.5 metres and was famously in the mental hospital in Finland – for purely economic reasons – when he was informed that he had been picked for the British Olympic team.
Indeed, Edwards, who was entirely self-funded, became the first British Olympic ski jumper for six decades. He finished stone cold last, by some margin, in both the 70-metre and 90-metre events, but his fearless acts of derring-do earned him the nickname ‘Eddie The Eagle’ and endeared him to a global audience. Indeed, in his closing address, Frank King, CEO of the Olympic Organising Committee, said to competitors, ‘Some of you have even soared like an eagle.’