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.

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