When Eddie soared like an eagle
‘‘Because of his appalling results, the joy he showed in merely competing and his outrageous personality, he became a media celebrity.’’
but proved immensely popular.
He was the most unlikely looking competitor. He was so long-sighted he wore thick glasses that fogged up in the cold. And he was about 10kg heavier than anyone else in his events at Calgary.
Edwards, a plasterer, always had something about him – he was a stunt jumper who once set a record by clearing six buses.
He almost made the 1984 British winter Olympics skiing team, but to make sure he qualified in 1988 he took up the ski jump, which no other Briton contested.
Though he was self-funded and forever short of money, he trained at Lake Placid, New York. He competed on the European circuit, sleeping one night in a Finnish mental hospital to save money.
Edwards was no natural. He admitted to being afraid as he scanned the vast expanse before taking off for the 90m jump.
‘‘When I first looked from the top of the jump, I was so frightened that my bum shrivelled up like a prune,’’ he said.
Anyway he competed in Calgary, finished last and became famous.
As in the current movie, Finn Matti Nykanen won both the 70m and 90m golds. (He later had such trouble with alcoholism that he sold his medals and was even jailed after stabbing someone during a drinking binge.)
Edwards, dubbed The Mr Magoo of Skiing, The Flying Plasterer and The Ski Dropper, said before he competed: ‘‘In my case there are only two kinds of hope, Bob Hope and no hope.’’
Because of his appalling results, the joy he showed in merely competing and his outrageous personality, he became a media celebrity, much to the irritation of some better ski jumpers.
Again as in the movie, Frank King, president of the organising committee, singled him out during the closing ceremony, saying: ‘‘… and some of you have even soared like an eagle.’’
He never got to another Olympics. The ‘‘Eddie Edwards rule’’ was introduced, making qualifying standards much tougher.
Commercially he did well. There was a five-year sponsorship with Eagle Airlines in Britain, and lots of television appearances.
His fame lingers in other ways. At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Equatorial Guinea swimmer Eric Moussambani was so bad he was dubbed Eric the Eel.
I did enjoy the movie, which while no documentary, still revived memories of a fortnight 28 years ago when even New Zealanders cared about the winter Olympics.
Hugh Jackman, in van, and Taron Egerton in Eddie the Eagle.