Having grown up where it rarely snowed, I was never a big fan of the Winter Olympics solely due to the fact I had nothing to relate to. It wasn’t until 1988 when British skier, Eddie “the Eagle” Edwards, as he came to be known, became the first competitor to represent Great Britain in Olympic ski jumping that snow or no snow, I was a fan of the Winter Olympics. Edwards became famous as an example of an underdog or “heroic failure”, and of perseverance and achievement without funding.
Now, some 25+ years later, comes Eddie the Eagle,a feel-good story about Michael “Eddie” Edwards, play by Taron Egerton, an unlikely but courageous British ski-jumper who never stopped believing in himself – even as an entire nation was counting him out.
With the help of a rebellious and charismatic coach, Bronson Peary, played by Hugh Jackman, Eddie takes on the establishment and wins the hearts of sports fans around the world by making an improbable and historic showing at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. Eddie the Eagle also stars Christopher Walken as Jackman’s mentor, Warren Sharp.
Unfortunately, Eddie’s path to the Olympics we uphill all the way. Narrowly missing out on making the Great Britain 1984 Olympic team, Eddie decided that to improve his chances to qualify for Calgary in 1988, he would move to Lake Placid in the US to train and enter races of a higher standard. He quickly found himself short on funds. To realize 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.
As if being self-funded wasn’t bad enough, Eddie was handicapped by his weight being some 20 lb heavier than the next heaviest competitor. And, if that wasn’t enough, another problem was that he was very farsighted, requiring him to wear his eyeglasses at all times, which during ski jumps fogged to such an extent that he could not see.
In the 1988 Olympics, Edwards competed in, and finished last in, both the 70 m and 90 m events. However, his lack of success endeared him to people around the globe. The worse he performed, the more popular he became. And so began my love affair with the Winter Olympics…that and Olympic hockey.
Eddie the Eagle opens Friday, 26 February in UK and U.S. theaters.