Infamous Winter Olympians: Eddie the Eagle
British ski jumper was more media sensation than medal contender
The Olympic Games have always been a setting for inspirational acts of athleticism, where sacrifice and hard work are the norm. But there are a few Winter Olympians that have set themselves apart from their fellow athletes through less-traditional means. Michael “Eddie the Eagle” Edwards is one of those rare individuals, the British ski jumper who was more media sensation than medal contender at the 1988 Calgary Games.
If Eddie the Eagle taught the world anything, it was to never let talent get in the way of giving your all, even when the result was much, much less than your fellow competitors.
The plasterer from Cheltenham, England was originally a downhill skier who dreamed of competing at the Calgary Games. When that fell through, he turned to ski jumping, and after some training got word: he was going to Calgary ... while living in a mental hospital in Finland:
Edwards was the first ski jumper to compete for Great Britain, although “compete” is maybe too strong a word. He finished dead last in both the long and normal hill events, scoring nowhere near the podium and at least 50 points from the next-to-last jumper in each case:
Edwards may not have been a medal threat, but he was definitely a media darling:
He was also a fan favourite, well beyond the Calgary Games:
Edwards’ success at getting into the Olympics and his subsequent failure to be anywhere close to world-class competition spurred the IOC to change its rules, forcing any Olympian to qualify by competing in international events and placing either in the top 30 per cent, or top 50 total. As much as he tried, Edwards failed to qualify for the next several Winter Olympics and retired in 1998.
At best, Edwards can be considered an example of the indomitable spirit of the Olympics – at worst, a novelty act that took deserved attention away from the best athletes in the world.