The Man Who Soared

February 6, 2013 at 8:34 am Leave a comment

The winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia may be a year away but how many of you realised that this week was the 25th anniversary of the appearance of ‘Eddie the Eagle,”one of the Games best remembered participants? Not necessarily the most popular competitors but certainly one never to be forgotten.

Eddie Edwards – yes he really was and still is called that- soared into our living rooms as the first ever British Olympic Ski Jumper. What many people do not realise is  Edwards was in fact a good downhill skier, and only narrowly missed out on the GB team for that event at the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Games.

To try and improve his chances of qualifying for the 1988 Games, he moved to Lake Placid in the USA to train. and enter races of a higher standard; Short of funds  to realize his Olympic dream,  he decided to switch to ski jumping because it had less costs and easier qualification with no other competing British ski jumpers.

Edwards first represented Great Britain at the 1987 World Championships, and was ranked 55th in the world and this performance qualified him, as the sole British applicant, for the 1998 Calgary Winter Olympics ski jumping competition. At the time Edwards was the best ski jumper in the United Kingdom, setting a British record of 73.5 m in one of his Calgary jumps in 1988.

Being far sighted he had to wear his glasses under his mask at all times and had problems with them constantly fogging up. Something that no doubt endeared him to many at home on the couch.

Edwards had a dream of attending the Olympic Games and he achieved that dream, however his success closed the door for many who followed. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) instituted what became known as the ‘Eddie the Eagle Rule,’ which requires Olympic hopefuls to now compete in international events and place in the top 30 percent or the top 50 competitors, whichever is fewer in order to qualify for the Winter Games.

Although he embodied the Olympic spirit, his exploits angered many who had dedicated their life to their sport. He stole the limelight which also put many noses out of joint. He was ridiculed by many, but ultimately Eddie the Eagle probably had the last laugh. He lived the dream and show great courage to compete in such an event, he used the money from from spin offs to leave his job as a plasterer and gain a degree in Law. However probably best of all he is remembered for his feats all these years later.

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