Michael Edwards, nicknamed ‘Eddie’ since his schooldays, found fame at the Winter Olympic Games in Calgary in 1988, where he became the first competitor to represent Great Britain in Olympic ski jumping since Percy Legrand in 1936. Although little-known outside the world of skiing, Edwards was, in fact, the British record holder for ski jumping and had competed, albeit without distinction, in the FIS Nordic Ski Championships at Obertsdorf, in the Bavarian Alps, in 1987. As such, he already had a ‘cult’ following and, in Calgary, was greeted by a group of fans sporting a banner proclaiming, ‘Welcome to Calgary Eddie The Eagle’, thereby coining the nickname that has remained with Edwards ever since.
Edwards finished last, by a wide margin, in both the normal-hill and large-hill events but, although still 15 metres or more behind the shortest jump recorded by the second-last competitor, Canadian Tod Gilman, in the latter event, still extended his own British record to 71 metres. Instantly recognisable by his trademark ‘beer bottle’ spectacles – he was chronically long-sighted, which added another dangerous dimension to ski jumping – Edwards was a press man’s dream. Congenial and self-effacing, but nonetheless fearless and dedicated, he received more media attention than almost anyone else at the Games.
Despite Edwards’ conspicuous lack of success, the story of a formerly down-and-out downhill skier, who turned to ski jumping as a last resort, now living the ‘Olympic Dream’ captured the imagination of the wider public. His exploits, including his inspirational backstory, made back and front page news across the world during the Games and beyond. Edwards’ life provided the basis for the tongue-in-cheek biopic ‘Eddie The Eagle’, starring Taron Egerton in the title role and Hugh Jackman as Edwards’ coach, Bronson Peary, released in 2016.