Nearly three decades after he finished last in two Olympic events – and charmed the world in the process – the British ski jumper Eddie “the Eagle” Edwards has again soared through the air in Calgary, Canada.
“Relief, absolutely relief” was how Edwards described the feeling of successfully landing six jumps on Sunday. “I’ve not done much jumping over the last 20-odd years.”
Born Michael Edwards, the plasterer and self-taught ski jumper catapulted into fame as the underdog of the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.
Wearing thick glasses that at times misted up under his goggles, borrowed skis and a helmet tied on with string, Edwards flung himself off the ski jump, arms flailing as he flew high above the city skyline. The world watched as he placed last – by a wide margin – at the 70-metre and 90-metre events.
Almost 30 years later, hundreds turned out in Calgary on Sunday to cheer him on as he took another turn on the city’s ski jumps. The crowd shouted wildly as Edwards, sporting colourful glasses, landed the 18-metre, 38-metre and 70-metre jumps.
He drew the line at attempting the 90-metre jump, however. “I thought, ‘I’ll quit while I’m ahead, I’m still in one piece and I’m happy,’” he told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
As he looked down at the crowd from high above, readying himself to jump, the 53-year-old said he was struck by a bout of nerves. “But there was such a crowd, and they were all shouting ‘Eddie, Eddie’, and it took me right back to Calgary 29 years ago, and they gave me the confidence and the courage to go down there and jump and it was great,” he said. “It’s a little bit like riding a bike: some of it stays and some of it goes.”
Shortly after the Calgary Olympics, the entry requirements for ski jumping were tightened and Edwards failed to qualify for subsequent games. He went on to write a book and his story was captured last year in the film Eddie the Eagle, with the British actor Taron Egerton taking on the role of Edwards.
Edwards’ visit to Calgary comes as the city is weighing whether to push forward with a bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics. Describing Calgary’s games as “the best”, Edwards wholeheartedly threw his support behind the bid.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “And if they can have the Olympics again, I think it will be even better. I might even jump, you never know.”