Michael Edwards, better known as Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, was Born in Cheltenham (Gloucestershire – United Kingdom). Eddie learnt to ski at his local dry ski slope and quickly became an accomplished downhill skier, narrowly missing out on being selected for the Great Britain ski team at the 1984 Games.
To improve his chances of qualifying for the Calgary Olympics in 1988, he moved to Lake Placid in the US to train and enter races of a higher standard. However, he quickly found himself short on funds. To realise 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 ski jumping under the watchful eye of John Viscome and Chuck Berghorn in Lake Placid, using Chuck’s old equipment. Eddie had to wear six pairs of socks to make the boots fit! He was also handicapped by his weight. At about 82 kg (181 lb), he was more than 9 kg (20 lb) heavier than the next heaviest competitor.
These were not the only challenges to overcome however. Without any form of financial support for training, Eddie worked as a plasterer and even slept in a disused Finnish hospital for a short time to save enough money to keep his Olympic dreams alive. Being very longsighted, Eddie also had to wear his high strength spectacles at all times. During ski jumps, his glasses often fogged to such an extent that he could not see!
Eddie first represented Great Britain at the 1987 World Championships and was ranked 55th in the world. This performance qualified him, as the sole British applicant, for the 1988 Winter Olympics. At that time, he was the British ski jumping record holder despite finishing last in the 70m and 90m events. Eddie has since become famous for personifying the Olympic spirit and for his determination to represent his country without any form of funding.
The ‘Eddie The Eagle’ Rule
Shortly after the 1988 Olympics, the entry requirements were strengthened in order to make it impossible for anyone to follow his example. In what became known as the ‘Eddie The Eagle Rule’, Olympic hopefuls had to compete in international events and be placed in the top 30 percent or the top 50 competitors, whichever was fewer. Undeterred, Eddie carried on training. Despite making huge advances in performance, he failed to qualify for the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville (France), the 1994 Games in Lillehammer (Norway) and 1998 Games in Nagano (Japan).
Life After Ski Jumping
After retiring from ski jumping, Eddie has been much in demand! Eddie went on the become the world number nine in amateur speed skiing, (106.8 mph / 171.9 km/h).
Eddie released a book called ‘On the Piste’ and even recorded several pop songs in Finland, the most famous of which was called “Munnimeni on Eetu” (“My name is Eetu”).
For several years in the early 2000s, Eddie co-hosted a Sunday morning show with Trish Campbell on BBC Radio Gloucestershire. In 2003, he graduated from De Montfort University in Leicester with a degree in law.
Eddie continues to work as a commentator for programmes such as ITV’s ‘The Jump’ and has taken part in numerous TV shows ranging from Sport Relief to the celebrity diving show ‘Splash’ which he won.
Eddie is Patron of the charity Ski 4 Cancer (http://www.ski4cancer.org) and spends much of his time helping them wherever he can. He returned to ski jumping in 2015 to raise funds for Ski 4 Cancer.
A film about Eddie’s life starring Taron Egerton as Eddie and Hugh Jackman as his trainer will be released in Spring 2016.