During the 1988 Calgary Olympics the world saw the debut of the Jamaican Bobsled Team, and also where Eddie “The Eagle” soared into last place as a famously unsuccessful ski jumper. The media called him, “Mr. Magoo,” and “a heroic failure.” At the closing ceremonies of the 1988 Olympics, Frank King, organizer of the Olympic Committee stated, “You have captured our hearts. You have broken world records and you have established personal bests. And some of you have soared like eagles.”
Michael “Eddie” Edwards spent three years of his childhood wearing plaster casts on his legs after a noble yet unnecessarily dangerous risk blocking a soccer goal, damaging the cartilage in his knee. He wore thick glasses. At the age of thirteen he began downhill skiing, and by the age of seventeen he had advanced on the British national skiing team. He decided to pursue ski jumping due to lack of funding for the costly downhill skiing. He traveled the European ski circuit in his mother’s van, utilizing second-hand equipment. He earned money doing odd jobs, such as babysitting, mowing lawns, and working in hotels. The Italians gave him a helmet, and the Austrians handed over a pair of extra skis. His boots were too large, so he wore six pairs of socks to fill the gap. “When he broke his jaw, instead of paying to be treated at a hospital, he tied it up with a pillowcase and went about his business” (The Guardian). Edwards received news he qualified for the British Olympic Team while staying at a Finnish mental hospital—he’d booked their accommodations for the cheap cost of one pound a night.
Edwards was twenty pounds heavier than the other ski jumpers, and barely scraped by the minimum qualifications for ski jumping. But he was the fastest ski jumper from Britain.
At the 1988 Olympics, fellow Olympians watched as Eddie smashed into a glass door at the airport, crushing his skis and ruining some of his gear. But despite all these difficulties, Eddie persisted. The media ran with his story and ridiculed him. Fans adored him. They rooted for the underdog. He participated in all three jumps, and scores landed him absolutely last place. According to Wikipedia, “In the 70 [meter jump], he scored 69.2 points from two jumps.” Next to last place, “Bernat Sola Pujol of Spain scored 140.4 points. Winner Matti Nykänen of Finland had 229.1 points.” Underwhelming results didn’t stop him from showing up and jumping to the best of his ability. And the whole crowd rooted for him.
See, we love an underdog. We love seeing someone dedicate and overcome. We love to see the guy who doesn’t give up, no matter what.
In 1990, the International Olympic Committee even made an “Eddie The Eagle Rule,” raising the minimum qualifications. As People magazine stated, “stricter qualification rules were imposed, making it nearly impossible for Eddie the Eagles of the world to ever make the Olympics again.”
Edwards sold the movie rights to his life story in 2007, and production halted on the movie until the right people fell into place. In 2016, the movie “Eddie The Eagle,” starring Taron Egerton and Hugh Jackman hit theatres, which is where I first saw this fantastic story of heart and grit. We all have our Eddie moments. Ever been wearing six pairs of socks to fill someone else’s boots? Are you out of your league? Are you underprepared and financially incapable? <Raises hand.> Eddie braved it all and didn’t look back.
Even considered a “heroic failure,” he still went to the Olympics, man. And he was mentioned in the closing ceremony address, to thunderous applause.
Maybe you’re dreaming of big things and great stories. Maybe you’re stuck facing overwhelming odds against you, and fears which leave you crippled in your spot.
Or maybe, just maybe, it’s time to soar.
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