An Interview With Eddie The Eagle

Posted on: 21 April 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Like many British sportsmen he became famous for his failure.

However, it is not as simple as that when you meet Michael Edwards, or Eddie The Eagle as he is known worldwide. He was the first Briton to compete in the Olympic ski jumping competition, from that enormous height at the Calgary winter games in 1988.

At that time he was across every British newspaper and television channel. The image they conveyed was that he was a complete amateur and idiot.  In fact he was a very good skier, who had a lot of guts when it came to jumping off what might seem to many of us as the edge of the world.

That was all twenty years ago but he still remembers it all as if it were yesterday.  In fact he has just been back to Calgary at their invitation, because they still admire him for what he did at those winter games.

“I’ve still got a few of the Olympic bibs and uniform, but I gave a lot of things like my helmet and goggles to the Calgary Olympic Museum," he tells me. 

"I still alpine ski quite a lot. I come from Cheltenham and got interested in skiing on a school ski trip. I was bored when I came home so I used to go to Gloucester ski slope. I started going there once a week, and then twice a week.”

“After only a month I did a dry ski slalom, and then I got into the giant slalom and was racing internationals for England and Britain. I was aiming to do the Olympics, but I kept running out of money skiing on the snow in Europe, so I went to America and ran out of money there."

"I began looking at the ski jump, because England had never taken part in it. I worked in hotels working on tables so that I could ski in all my free time. In fact there was a ski jump locally and I started doing that. I would jump in the morning before I went to work, and then again when I had finished. I made a lot of friends at the ski jump, and stayed with some. You start jumping on a ten metre jump and gradually work upwards. I went up to 40 metres, and then 90 metres. The Olympic height is 120 metres."

Eddie The Eagle Skiing“It’s a very technical sport. It requires a certain amount of speed when you take the jump. It’s like you are really flying. You sit on a bar, like a seat; put your goggles on to go; then you hit the take off and you are in mid air, literally flying. It’s brilliant.  To qualify for the Olympics I had to jump 70 metres, which I did in a competition in St Moritz, which I did. I was in Finland when I heard I had been picked to represent GB at the Olympics.”

The camaraderie among ski jumpers proved itself when the American squad invited Eddie to train with them before Calgary.  In fact the publicity about Eddie The Eagle should have been totally opposite to that which he attracted. He was not a failure. As he points out now to have achieved what he had done in two years was incredible. Usually it takes years for a ski jumper to reach competence at the top level. He took just two years and was in fact a novice jumping against the best in the world, who had taken part in this event all their sporting lives.

“It usually takes ten years to get where I did in two," he says.  "To get to 120 metres, a lot of them either break a leg doing it, or bottle it before competing and won’t do a jump that high anymore. It was amazing that the British Press talked about me as a flop, because I wasn’t. It takes guts to go off a jump that high and survive.”

With everything he has done in his life, he decided to go with the flow, and it was to earn him notoriety, fame, and if not a fortune, a good living.  When he started out he was a plasterer.  Nowadays he still works at restoring houses and other buildings, and still goes to the Gloucester ski slope every now and again, as well as skiing in the alps for fun.

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