Olympic Stories

Michael “Eddie the Eagle” Edwards

Michael “Eddie the Eagle” Edwards

Michael “Eddie the Eagle” Edwards

Countries once had freedom to send any athlete they wanted to the Olympics. There was an unspoken understanding that every country would attempt to put their proverbial best foot forward, by way of sending their top competitors to represent their country with pride.

However, some countries don't typically have top athletes for every Olympic sport, and the entire world would find this to be the case with Great Britain in the 1998 Olympics, when Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards donned the British flag in the ski jumping event and subsequently embarrassed the Olympics. He himself would become something of a folk hero, but the Olympics were none too pleased about the poor performance of The Eagle.

Michael Edwards

Michael Edwards, aka Eddie the Eagle, was born on December 5, 1963 in Cheltenham, England. Growing up in Woodchester, Edwards took to multiple sports as a child, and he would become a great local skier as he grew up. As a downhill skier, Edwards failed to qualify for the British National team for the 1984 Olympic Games. So, he took another route to Olympic glory, moving to the US and training with Chuck Berghorn for the ski jumping event.

Eddie's story goes a bit sideways after this. He was a heavy, farsighted man who, oddly enough, became the best ski jumper in the entire United Kingdom. But, completely out of money, Eddie had to stop training and moved into a Finnish mental hospital to live. It was there that he learned he would represent Team GB at the 1987 World Championships, and, if he could qualify, eventually the Olympics.

How Eddie Flew Like an Eagle

Eddie didn't do very well at all when competing with the world's best ski jumpers. In the 1987 championships, he finished in 55th place. However, this rank was good enough to earn him a spot as GB's sole participant in the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary, Canada. He would wear his nation's colors and compete in the ski jumping events, and no one was more thrilled about this news than the quirky Michael Edwards.

The Eagle's Olympic tale is split in two. Firstly, he competed in two events, the 70m and the 90m ski jumping events. Secondly, the camp was split in two. The people who were ultimately endeared to The Eagle for his oddball ways and obvious effort, and the people who felt he was an embarrassment to the sport. The latter felt that way because, despite noble attempts, Eddie was simply outmatched by every single Olympic competitor there. With each turn, Eddie did worse than the previous. Ironically, though, the worse Eddie's performance was, the more his supporters would cheer him on.

Eddie's failings in the ski jumping competition made him an instant celebrity. He didn't come across as an Andy Kaufman type personality; he seemed to be a genuine guy; it just so happened that he wasn't a very good ski jumper when juxtaposed against the rest of the Olympic field. And his goofy, devil-may-care personality made him a favorite of late-night talk shows and tabloids. On the flip side of that coin, his detractors grew increasingly frustrated with The Eagle's antics, ultimately claiming that he was intentionally making a mockery of the sport and claiming that new standards needed to be initiated for Olympic competition.

Shortly after the 1988 Olympic Games, the requirements to compete were significantly strengthened. Instead of anyone making the cut so that a country had a representative, the International Olympic Committee instituted the Eddie the Eagle Rule, which stated that all Olympic hopefuls need to place either in the top 50 competitors or in the top 30 percentile in internal competition. The aim, of course, was to keep the Eddie the Eagles of the world out of the Olympics.

The new rules didn't stop Eddie from attempting to qualify for future games, however. He would still compete and attempt to crack the new ceiling. But he was unable and ultimately never had a chance to compete in the Olympics again. He was brought back in future Games as entertainment and a torchbearer, but his days of Olympic competition were over in 1988.

Even recently there is a movie about his life story, check out the movie trailer below!

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